Suzy. Sally. Mary. Esther. Vanessa. No matter what your name is—if you’re a woman, this month’s for you.
Why? March is Women’s History Month.
And tomorrow, March 8 is International Women’s Day.
When you consider the recent activism surrounding women’s issues, it’s more important than ever that we understand the current state of our social climate, learn from the trailblazers of the past, and press for progress in the future. That’s certainly what we’re doing as a social enterprise here at Bak USA.
As a male, and, well, human being, I definitely need to learn more about women’s journeys, conflicts, and ultimate wins or losses throughout time. More to the point, I want to learn more. And I want to be supportive of gender inclusiveness in the workplace and our society as a whole.
So last week, I sat in on an interview between Bak USA President Ulla Bak and Bak USA PR Specialist Samantha Pierce. Here’s what Samantha asked. Here’s how Ulla answered. (Once again, the women have done all the heavy lifting. Thank you, ladies.)
Why is it important to you to address women’s issues?
I’ve been many places where women weren’t given the opportunity to provide for themselves in some instances. For example, in Haiti. There were women who had no idea that they could work in a technology or in a manufacturing setting. So we gave them job opportunities and trained them technically.
It’s part of human rights that any man or woman has the same opportunity.
Today those women now triple the wage. Many even have a bank account and health insurance. It’s not only a question about money whether a woman can move forward, it’s how women can look at it. Education can open eyes to opportunity. That’s a good start. It has to start when women are young.
At Bak USA, 32% of our workforce is made up of women—5% more than the national average for tech/manufacturing businesses. How can we drive more women into STEM careers? Are we doing enough?
No. We want to be 50/50. But it’s not just up to us. It’s up to society and schools. Schools need to get women interested at a young age. We need to employ the best. Unfortunately, fewer women apply for those jobs.
We can give better work conditions for women in the workplace when there are women in leadership roles. That means women become more independent in life choices, which propels society in the right direction.
We need to push women at a younger age. Yes, we do have a wonderful situation here. Several women are on maternity leave. We demonstrate that we want to keep them. We are flexible to their needs. We accommodate schedules and have a private nursing room at Bak USA.
Sounds like a company’s social values directly affect gender diversity.
Yes. And by the way, social values in the company doesn’t mean the company isn’t profitable. You can retain people by giving good work conditions. Employees are an asset. They are the most important part of your organization. Then the bank account and inventory.
There is a trend called “impact investment” that shows people are investing in companies that make a change in society. But you can’t pick the right things to do from a list. You won’t stand out if it’s not passionate. It has to be authentic. Leadership has to be passionate about it.
Why are women such an important asset in business?
Women spend 80% of all money spent in this country. We have purchasing power. And women have a tendency to be curious, continuous learners. We [women] are more open to going back to school. Women often have a mixture of family needs and a competitive nature that drives them, and you need a strong foundation to compete. Finally, of course, women bring talent and insight to a business! And when we have more women in the workforce, we can attract more women in the workforce.
How can society better support women in the workplace?
First, women need to be more supportive of each other. Second, we need to support and sustain girls’ interest in STEM. Then businesses need to implement a hiring protocol that reflects our shared social values.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to women in tech?
The biggest one, again: Women should start to support each other. There’s enough success for all of us. Men cheerlead for other men. It’s rare to see women do the same, so we [women] need to push each other in the right direction.
Over the years, Ulla has seen firsthand how much ground women have gained in the workplace—but it’s not enough. Read more about her vision for a different future.