March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and a call to action for greater gender parity and inclusiveness. Equity for women in the workplace is particularly important to me —not only as a human resources leader, but also as a working woman who, like almost every woman I know, has encountered obstacles in the workplace on account of her gender.
I have seen so much progress and am hopeful for our future; however, bias against women persists in 2021, and that’s why we still need observances like International Women’s Day. Such bias is rooted in social beliefs about men, women and leadership. We are taught that men should be decisive, assertive and strong; women should be warm, caring and empathetic; and that good leaders need to demonstrate the qualities associated with masculinity. In spite of these preconceived notions, research shows that great leaders exhibit all of these traits and understand when to use them and that leadership teams comprised of women and men significantly boost profitability.
A major factor in my decision to join Sedgwick earlier this year is that the company leads with a culture of caring. Empathy, inclusion and accountability are embedded in Sedgwick’s five core values, and its stated purpose is that “taking care of people is at the heart of everything we do, because caring counts.” Additionally, more than 50% of Sedgwick’s global colleague population is female, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination and harassment of any kind. Our team includes a number of female executives, division presidents, country leaders and managing directors, and we are committed to fostering career paths for women and men at all levels of the organization. This speaks volumes about the kind of organization Sedgwick is and strives to be.
The global theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. A challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change. I appreciate that Sedgwick chooses to challenge the status quo of gender inequity and to embrace the evolving profile of what makes for good leadership. Our 27,000 colleagues around the world —regardless of their gender or position — must in the course of their work be decisive and warm, caring and assertive, and empathetic and strong. Claims examiners, loss adjusters, nurse case managers, people managers and executives alike need all of these qualities to excel at their jobs; the key is learning when and how best to use these tools to be most effective in the moment.
This year in particular, it’s important to acknowledge the significant toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on women. Women comprise most of the professionals in the healthcare field, and they have been on the front lines of this crisis since day one — putting themselves at risk of exposure and bearing the emotional scars of treating seriously ill patients in isolation. Additionally, staggering numbers of women have left the workforce in the past 12 months, either because they’ve lost their jobs or because of familial responsibilities that have compounded during the pandemic. That women are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 burden is another example of the systemic inequality that International Women’s Day aims to highlight and dismantle.
Everyone can choose to challenge, call out gender bias and take action for equality. Each of us can make the effort to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. We can all take the opportunity to reflect on situations when we were treated unfairly – or perhaps even treated others unfairly – on account of gender and to consider how we might have acted or responded differently. Collectively, we can help to create a more inclusive world.
This International Women’s Day and throughout the year, let us #ChooseToChallenge the status quo and to shine a light on the amazing women in our lives.