How Corporate Social Responsibility Reflects in Women’s Equality Day
While YourCause + Blackbaud is a global company, last month we participated in the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as an opportunity to celebrate the progress made in women’s equality and reflect and learn about the diverse inequities of individuals who identify on different points of the gender spectrum.
While our society has made strides in both the public and private sectors to include women in decision-making, lawmaking, and leadership, to reach true equality, there is a long, long way to go. We are fortunate enough to have a company that empowers these voices and to have been able to listen to a panel of women working to change not only who holds positions of power, but the systems that select them.
Reflecting on their conversation, there is so much that can be applied to the context of corporate social initiatives, learnings, themes, and conclusions that may impact strategy in 2020 and beyond:
Increasing Voting Access
While more and more companies are willing to take a political position on social topics, most companies still avoid corporate advocacy. Some companies promote civic engagement with the Get Out the Vote campaigns. Sally Ehrenfried points to this as a key area for equitable enfranchisement, “Working to ensure everyone has access to early voting, absentee voting, and time-off to vote breaks down barriers to voting that many faces. We are very lucky at Blackbaud that the company provides us time off to go vote. However, for hourly workers, it’s likely you don’t get that time off, much-less paid time off, to go vote. If we think about what barriers can be removed so that everyone has access, voting time off is an easy one” (Ehrenfried 36).
Acknowledge Progress AND Lasting Inequity
While many organizations have made leaps and bounds to be more diverse and inclusive, there is plenty of work still to be done, even within our company. Similarly, while we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the vote for womxn, the 19th Amendment legislation only supported white women. “This marks the 68th anniversary since Korean women have had the ability to vote, with the voting rights act, and ‘65 was really the watershed moment for other women of color including African American women. We need to make sure voting rights are strong and are enforced so that we don’t disenfranchise a whole host of women who are coming up and who are active and who are engaged” (Munson).
Equity-based Policies and Programs
“It was the first time that there was recognition of gender in the US constitution, it was the first time that there was an articulated right that belonged to women (McKinney).”
We’ve seen some companies pursue equity-based career programs as a critical way to diversify their application pools. “And it is more difficult for women to [get elected] because we’re told we can’t, we’re told that we don’t have the experience, there is always questioning on whether we’re married or have children” (Munson 31).
During the discussion, it was highlighted that identifying a specific group that is underrepresented and focusing on building policies and programs that support their specific needs can be valuable. This might be done internally with policies that protect and ensure people are treated equally, or it might be external strategies that support career pathway programs for specific groups.
Representation in Powerful Positions
In the wake of Briana Taylor, George Floyd, and the elevation of the Black Lives Matter movement, many are looking internally at the structures and processes that are reproducing inequities in corporations. One thing that was highlighted by the panelists was that representation matters and not just tokenism, but representation in numbers.
Change in representation will be supported by young women seeing other women in leadership positions, understanding that there is a path for you within whatever organization you are in (Ehrenfried 34).
“Tokenism is the idea that if you have one person who represents this group, that’s enough, because it’s not about being the one person or the leader, it’s about new capacities for understanding. When we talk about a more diverse and representative faculty, elected group of officials, and private sector leaders, we need to keep pushing that it’s not just one voice, we need many, many voices. I do think this argument will breakthrough and we’ll see a change” (McKinney 33).
Munson refers back to the lack of representation in the Oklahoma House, “It’s very difficult to talk about women’s health and access to childcare, and I believe that’s because we don’t have enough women in these seats that have conversations about the lived experience; not just the economic impact and things like that, but the real day-to-day impact of policies” (Munson 30:33).
“After the 2018 Freshman, U.S. House of Representatives, there were more young women with children than ever before so they actually transformed the schedule of being in and out of session when then they would hold votes for the recognition that women still do a disproportionate amount of the care labor at home” (McKinney 32).
“Listen, even more so when we disagree. I always say that door knocking will change the world and I really believe that. I always have to find goodness and kindness even in those that I very much disagree with and I think the best way to do that is by having personal conversations. This is where the change will happen, meeting people where they are, asking them what they care about, even if they don’t vote for me” (Munson).
Commit the personal resources and time it takes to be part of the movement. “If you are committed”, McKinney recommends, “begin by listening. If you aren’t beginning by listening, then often the desire to lead will come across purposeless. This is how movements split apart – when one person thinks they have the correct vision. Identify your skillset and what you have to offer – and offer it. Your willingness to be part of a community on other people’s terms builds trust, and trust sustains these kinds of movements into the future”.
The same is true for corporate social impact, the panelists point out that we must first listen to the needs of our people (employees at all levels) and our communities (where we work and where we serve). When we don’t, we often end up appearing inauthentic in our market.
“A study by American Progress claims that since 2000 there has been a 59% increase in the citizen voting-age population of women of color, equating to 13.5 million additional votes. In just 20 years, the impact in which women can have on our election cycles plus then running for office; you have a lot more women who are engaged and who could become engaged in the voting process” (Ehrenfried).
If these same racial and gender parity growth statistics were to be reflected in our educational systems, career paths, organizations, and so much more, imagine the potential of our next 20 years.
|Our Moderator, Jill Galloway, and panelists: Cyndi Munson, OK Representative, District 85, Minority Caucus Chair, House of Representatives; Sally Ehrenfried, Government Relations, Blackbaud; Claire McKinney, Assistant Professor, Government, William & Mary.|