Fake it till you make it, but not equality

There is this saying in business, “fake it til you make it”, to help entrepreneurs overcome those stages of insecurity when you feel the “impostor syndrome”. The aim is that you pass over the blocking you feel when you are not 100% sure of what you are doing and fear that everyone will notice that you are a fraud, that you lack the experience, that someone will know better than you. This might hinder your process of starting a project, a business or promoting yourself and will, as a consequence, stop you from taking action. It is, indeed, a good strategy for beginning stuff when you are not really confident because something is new to you. Usually, as you progress, you realize that you are quite good at what you do and, more importantly, the more you do it, the better you are at it.

However, when it comes to equality, the situation changes completely. Gender equality is something you should not try to “fake”, as it will backfire. Companies such as McDonald’s or KFC have experienced this in their own flesh. Why is this so? Because gender equality is an ethical issue and you can’t fake ethics, because, sooner or later, it will show (check also what happened with Intermon Oxfam UK in Haiti). The defenders of gender equality, that is, feminists (oh, yeah, I just wrote the “f” word!), will notice.

The most common mistake is to use equality as a marketing strategy, usually with stuff such as “we support women” or “we celebrate women”. If you say any of these, you better have a way to prove it. And, first of all, you have to prove that you are doing this INSIDE your organization. Do you have an equality policy and is it working? Are you actively and regularly promoting equality within/from your organization? These are the basic inquiries that will be posed to you when you flag up equality as something your organization supports. And you need to be able to give good answers to them.

So, does this mean that I cannot talk about equality at all until I can prove that my organization is gender equal? Nope. It means that you should be able to prove that your commitment to gender equality is solid, and that you are actively working on it in all the spaces you can, which may be both inside and outside your organization. Of course, nobody said it was easy, but it is definitely worth it. So, my advice is to think carefully about what message you want to give and why, and consider who and how might respond to it. And if you are doing your “equality message” just because it’s the 8th of March, better think it over.

Remember: faking it will most likely backfire, so make sure you are ready to consider gender equality work seriously and to accept that, doing so, you are ready to begin a long, inspiring and life changing journey.