Equality and diversity must be intentional.

This week began with International Women’s Day.

While women are being celebrated throughout the nation, the world and our community, the irony is that women — and especially women of color — have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme for Women’s Day this year was “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”

But according to UN Women, “Women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making, as revealed in the UN Secretary-General’s recent report. Women are heads of state or government in 22 countries, and only 24.9% of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among heads of government will take another 130 years.”

Equality doesn’t look much better outside of government or at the local level.

On the local level, women have lost jobs at a much higher rate than men during the pandemic, having a more difficult time finding new jobs, making less than their male counterparts when employed and holding fewer decision-making positions in both the public and private sectors.

Positive change only happens with intention and direction.

Employers must actively improve hiring and promotion practices and focus on improving both gender equality, along with workplace diversity and inclusion.

While having the right conversations about gender equality and racial diversity is important, when conversation does not translate into action it becomes meaningless.

Improving equality and diversity cannot, must not, be just a numbers game.

Yes, it is of utmost importance that public and private employers hire more women and more people of color and that wages be equalized, but it is equally important that women and people of color get a seat at the table.

Increasing diversity in decision-making positions is crucial to changing culture and finding longterm solutions to centuries-old inequalities. Equality, diversity and inclusion also greatly strengthen any business, agency or organization and enhances the ability to provide services to diverse communities.

So, while we are excited to celebrate women and acknowledge the myriad of contributions women have made to government, science, business, industry and society, we are not naive enough to think that the glass ceiling has been shattered. There is still a long way to go.

It is important that we never stop having these conversations and equally important that we turn talk into action.

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