By Rachel Hally, Senior Product Manager, ProQuest
March 8, 2016 marks the 105th celebration of International Women’s Day by leaders of the feminist movement around the world. The theme for this year’s celebration is Pledge for Parity, where individuals commit to taking action to accelerate equality for women in social, cultural, and economic spheres. Sadly, the World Economic Forum now predicts that worldwide gender parity will not be reached until 2133, a marked deceleration from their prediction in 2014 that we would achieve parity by 2095. How does this slowdown in women’s equality present itself today versus through the 20th century? Let’s take a look at reporting of women’s issues over time in ProQuest Historical Collections to find out how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
There are five sections of the Pledge for Parity:
1. Help women and girls achieve their ambitions
Organizations must illuminate the path to leadership, showing women the career and advancement opportunities that match their skills and professional objectives and provide the experiences necessary to fulfill their potential.
Individuals can commit to advocating for themselves, and when appropriate, becoming effective role models and sponsors of women to help them achieve their goals.
ProQuest History Vault includes many archival collections that show the lengths women were willing to go to in the 20th century to achieve gender parity. One collection, in particular, is the organizational records of the Women’s Action Alliance, founded in 1971 to promote women’s independence and agency via local, grassroots political movements. The Women’s Action Alliance challenged the status quo by promoting workforce equality and gender-neutral preschool education. Not only did the Women’s Action Alliance encourage women to achieve their ambitions, the organization’s leadership lived these ideals, with accomplished women such as Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman-Hughes at the helm serving as role models for the thousands of women for whom they advocated.
2. Challenge conscious and unconscious bias
Studies show that gender-balanced organizations and teams deliver stronger results and that inclusive societies are more progressive, but ingrained bias slows the progress of equality.
Organizations must build cultures where all people feel valued and included and can contribute fully according to their capabilities.
Individuals can commit to learning about their own biases, adjusting their behaviour as needed and welcoming different experiences and points of view.
ProQuest Women’s Magazine Archive contains several consumer magazines that, although now primarily considered lifestyle publications, started off as more political or literary in nature. One such example is Chatelaine, a Canadian magazine that began publication in 1928 and grew during the first wave feminist movement into a highly political magazine. Articles on issues ranging from women’s role in business and financial management to sexual agency and identity are indicative of the efforts in the early 20th century to break through unconscious bias of women against their own aspirations for economic and social achievements.
3. Call for gender-balanced leadership
Companies with women board members outperform in return on equity, net income growth and price-to-book value as well as a host of non-financial measures.
Organizations must ensure women are exposed to strategic operations and functions to gain the experience needed for senior positions and set measurable targets for appointing women to leadership.
Individuals can show potential or current employers that they value and expect gender-balanced leadership. They should seek out leadership, sponsorship and mentoring programs, exposure to strategic and financial roles and integrated networks designed to help women advance.
ProQuest Historical Newspaper’s coverage of the Wall Street Journal begins in 1889 and throughout the 20th century includes extensive reporting on the role of women in the business world. Mentorship, leadership training, networking opportunities for women are all heavily reported. Also covered extensively are companies and organizations that made great strides over time to be more inclusive and welcoming to women.
4. Value women and men’s contributions equally
Raising the female labour force participation rate to match that of men will have a positive impact on GDP in both developed and developing economies.
Organizations must ensure all their talent processes are equitable, fair and that they further their gender parity and diversity objectives.
Individuals can seek out perspectives different from their own, prioritize building diverse teams and engage in mixed networks that build trusted relationships.
ProQuest Executive Branch Documents provide access to government documents published throughout the 20th century on women’s contribution to overall economic growth and how women in the workforce can provide alternative and diverse viewpoints, leading to improved outcomes. One example is the Bureau of Labor Statistics long-standing publication Handbook of Labor Statistics which quantifies various aspects of the economy relevant to women’s decisions to enter or leave the workforce, and the effect of women in the workforce on productivity.
5. Create inclusive, flexible cultures
After competitive pay and benefits, workers in eight countries rank working flexibly and still being on track for promotion as what they value most in a potential job.
Organizations should recognize that lines between career and personal lives are becoming more fluid. They should create progressive policies like flexible working that allow everyone - regardless of age, gender, rank or geography - to manage their personal and professional lives and realize their ambitions.
Individuals can create trusting, team-oriented work environments by encouraging flexible working supporting choice about the times, places and ways work gets done.
ProQuest’s The Vogue Archive traces the movement in the latter part of the 20th century for more work-life balance in women’s careers. Whether it’s coverage of issues surrounding the so-called mommy track or discussions on what growing numbers of women elected to Congress mean for our culture and society, articles in Vogue highlight the importance women, in particular, stress on work-life balance and how that benefits society at large, regardless of one’s family structure or gender.