Bridging the gender gap to inspire inclusion

By Jennifer Willey, CEO + Founder, Wet Cement

For International Women's Day (IWD) 2024 as we commit to Inspire Inclusion, let’s take a moment to examine how gender impacts the notion of fearlessness at work.

Inspire Inclusion IWD24

A recent Wet Cement analysis among U.S. professionals offers insight into the career aspirations of men and women. We asked, "How would your life be different if you approached your career fearlessly?"

The responses are a clarion call for a more inclusive and supportive environment where everyone can thrive without constraints.

Pursuit of traditional success among men

Men envision fearlessness as a ladder to top leadership roles, higher wages, and entrepreneurial success. Their aspirations are not just about personal advancement; they’re also about empowering the next generation through mentorship. Men are hungry to leave a legacy.

Women and the quest for balance

Conversely, the women's responses weave a narrative intertwining career aspirations and self-advocacy with well-being and work-life balance. The fearlessness they seek is in taking risks earlier in their career and asserting their worth, while finding fulfillment. They want to better advocate for themselves, take deserved breaks, and prioritize happiness over hierarchical success. One recurring theme is their desire to be recognized for their capabilities and pursue self-actualization without stress.

Divergent paths and shared barriers

The study unveils a stark divergence in how men and women perceive career progression. Men discuss taking risks and moving jobs for advancement, focusing on an even more proactive stance toward career growth. In contrast, women recount experiences of staying too long in unsupportive roles and the adverse effects of not embracing risk earlier in their careers. The workplace is taking a toll on the physical and mental health of women, most likely because women juggle more family and household responsibilities while balancing workplace priorities and commitments. What’s more, the “double bind,” adds another layer of complexity. Women are held to higher expectations when they communicate; it’s a “double bind” because they are opften expected to demonstrate both warmth (pro-social behaviors like care and concern) and competence (being clear, direct, decisive and assertive), whereas men only need to show the latter to be perceived as leaders.

Our research also found that women who lack confidence at work suffer from anxiety and depression more than their low-confidence male colleagues. These findings call for a shift in workplace culture.

A collective journey forward

Collective fearlessness means supporting risk-taking, assertive communication, and celebrating all achievements. Embracing imperfection and learning from it benefits not only individuals but also the entire organization.

Committing to change on IWD and beyond

IWD 2024 InspireInusion

For International Women's Day, let's commit to dismantling biases and establishing fair metrics that reward all forms of contribution. It's time to create environments where every individual—regardless of gender—can aspire to and achieve their definition of success. For additional ideas and inspiration on what you can do to #InspireInclusion in yourself and others, watch the video below.

By recognizing the varied aspirations and obstacles across genders, we can ensure everyone's potential is acknowledged and celebrated. As you plan your IWD event, encourage everyone to share their aspirations and to serve as allies by both encouraging and challenging each other.

And if you need support to create a meaningful and memorable IWD event for your team, Wet Cement can help with a variety of keynotes and workshops designed to Advance Women at Work while empowering allies and leaders.


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