International Women’s Day 2024 Spotlight: Kathy Hardy, Galt Foundation Board Member 

International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated on March 8th, is a global day acknowledging the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The theme for IWD 2024, “Inspire Inclusion,” invites us to explore and embrace the benefits of diversity and inclusivity in every sphere of life, including the corporate world.¹  

This day also serves as a call to action for accelerating gender equality, making it the perfect backdrop to highlight the transformative impact of female leadership within organizations. Among these influential women is Kathy Hardy, a figure of resilience, innovation, and inclusivity on the Galt Foundation Leadership Board, whose contributions have significantly advanced the cause of inclusivity in the workplace. 

The Rise of Female Leadership 

The journey towards gender equality in boardrooms has been long and fraught with challenges. Historically, women have been underrepresented in leadership positions, but the landscape is changing. According to Deloitte’s “Women in the Boardroom: 2022 Update” report, women occupy just 20 percent of board seats globally, but the global proportion of women in the boardroom has reached a historic high of 33.5 percent, indicating that society is increasingly valuing the role of women in the boardroom amidst a global movement towards gender equality.²

This shift is not just a win for equality but also brings tangible benefits to organizations, including improved decision-making, enhanced innovation, and a more comprehensive understanding of consumer markets. Diverse leadership teams, by bringing a variety of perspectives and experiences to the table, are better equipped to navigate the complexities of the global business environment. 

However, progress remains slow and uneven, and companies around the globe still need to drastically step-up efforts to recruit and retain equity and inclusion initiatives throughout their organizations and at the highest levels. 

Profile of Inspirational Board Member: Kathy Hardy 

In celebration of women’s remarkable contributions, we spotlight Kathy Hardy, a trailblazer in the talent acquisition and staffing industry. With an impressive tenure of over 30 years in executive leadership, Hardy has elevated global staffing organizations to unprecedented levels of success. Her unique leadership style is characterized by nurturing emerging talent, coaching, and assembling specialized teams that have filled thousands of roles worldwide. This approach not only exemplifies her acute business acumen but also her deep-seated commitment to social causes. 

As a visionary entrepreneur, Hardy has played a pivotal role in founding and leading transformative ventures, including YUPRO, PBC., an innovative training program designed for non-college-bound high school graduates affiliated with YearUp. This initiative has significantly impacted over 3,000 inner-city young adults, connecting them with meaningful career opportunities. Furthermore, her partnership with Discover through Kelly Services, Inc. has expanded career support to various overlooked talent groups, reinforcing her dedication to fostering inclusivity.  

Hardy’s revolutionary strategies across both nonprofit and for-profit sectors highlight her remarkable blend of business prowess and social impact. Her leadership not only drives commercial success but also champions social change, positioning her as a source of inspiration for leaders across the globe. 

Overcoming Challenges and Breaking Barriers 

Despite the progress, women like Kathy Hardy still face significant challenges in attaining board positions. Institutional and cultural barriers, such as gender biases and lack of access to networks, continue to impede gender diversity in boardrooms. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders to create environments where women can thrive equally. 

Institutional Barriers 

One of the most common challenges that women face is the lack of representation in leadership positions. This scarcity is not a reflection of capability but rather of historical and ongoing institutional biases. While it might be unintended, unconscious biases often show up in hiring and promotion practices, favoring male candidates for leadership roles due to stereotypical perceptions of leadership qualities. Additionally, women frequently encounter a glass ceiling—an invisible barrier that prevents them from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements. 

Cultural Barriers 

Cultural norms and stereotypes play a significant role in shaping the challenges women face. The societal expectation that women should primarily be caretakers and homemakers persist, creating a conflict between professional aspirations and traditional roles. Such stereotypes not only impact women’s career choices but also influence the perception of their capabilities and leadership styles. 

Women leaders may find themselves subjected to a double bind: if they exhibit traditionally masculine traits such as assertiveness, they may be labeled as too aggressive; if they display empathy and compassion, they might be deemed too emotional for leadership. This scrutiny over leadership style and decision-making processes can undermine women’s authority and effectiveness in leadership roles. 

The Role of Boards in Driving Gender Equality 

Corporate boards shape the culture, strategy, and policies of organizations. Their influence extends far beyond the boardroom, affecting the workforce, the market, and society at large. As such, they have a crucial role in driving gender equality and fostering an inclusive environment that not only welcomes but also celebrates diversity in all its forms. 

1. Setting the Tone for Inclusivity 

The leadership in any place sets the strategic direction of an organization, and their commitment to gender equality can significantly influence corporate culture and priorities. By embedding gender equality as a core value, boards can ensure that this commitment is reflected in every aspect of the organization’s operations, from recruitment practices to marketing strategies. This top-down approach is essential for creating an environment where inclusivity is the norm rather than the exception. 

2. Policy and Decision-making 

Boards have the authority to approve policies that promote gender equality. This includes implementing equitable hiring practices, ensuring equal pay for equal work, and creating clear pathways for progression and development for all employees, regardless of gender. Providing the necessary infrastructure such as flexible work arrangements, parental leave policies, and childcare support, which are crucial for balancing professional and personal responsibilities, can help reduce the gender gap in leadership positions. 

3. Diversity in Leadership 

Leadership teams that reflect the diversity they aspire to see within their organizations can bring a rich array of perspectives and experiences to the decision-making table. This approach, which includes embracing gender diversity, often leads to more balanced and innovative outcomes. By valuing diversity in their composition, these teams demonstrate a commitment to gender equality and naturally inspire change throughout the organization. 

4. Accountability and Measurement 

To drive gender equality effectively, there’s a need to keep track of advancements. This may include establishing transparent, measurable objectives for gender diversity and inclusion, along with periodic assessments to gauge progress toward these goals. Introducing tools like diversity audits, performance metrics, and reporting guidelines can help maintain transparency and accountability, supporting a consistent journey toward achieving gender equality. 

5. Championing Gender Equality Initiatives 

With their platform and influence, leadership teams can champion gender equality initiatives, both internally and externally. Their efforts might include backing women’s leadership programs and mentorship schemes and advocating for gender equality in industry associations, forums, and public discourse. Taking a proactive stance, they set a precedent, inspiring others to emulate their actions. 

6. Leveraging Influence for Systemic Change 

Boards can leverage their influence to advocate for systemic changes that support gender equality, such as policy reforms and industry standards. Collaborating with stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, and other corporations, boards can shape an ecosystem that fosters gender equality not only within individual organizations but across industries and societies. 

EMPOWERING CHANGE: JOINING HANDS WITH GALT FOUNDATION FOR AN INCLUSIVE FUTURE 

As we honor the achievements and vision of Kathy Hardy this International Women’s Day, it’s vital to recognize the broader mission she and the Galt Foundation champion: fostering a more inclusive workforce. The narrative of Hardy’s leadership not only exemplifies personal triumph and commitment to social impact but also aligns with Galt Foundation’s prime mission of creating employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. This synergy between individual leadership and organizational mission highlights the profound impact that inclusive practices can have on both the micro and macro levels of society. 

Inclusivity in the workplace goes beyond gender; it encompasses all aspects of diversity, including ability. At Galt Foundation, we’re committed to expanding employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. If you’re a candidate seeking good employment opportunities in human resources, food services, accounting, or general labor, you can check through our job board to find suitable employment opportunities.  

Our priority is to connect you with employers who not only value your skills but also provide a supportive workplace environment. And if you’re an employer looking for the right candidates to join your team, our approach is meticulously designed to ensure that your new hires are not only capable but able to drive your business forward. Feel free to reach out today, and let’s create a more inclusive and productive workforce, where everyone has the chance to thrive and succeed! 

References 

1 International Women’s Day. “International Women’s Day 2024 Campaign Theme Is ‘Inspire Inclusion.’” International Women’s Day, www.internationalwomensday.com/Theme. Accessed 19 Feb. 2024. 

2 Konigsburg, Dan and Thorne, Sharon. “Women in the boardroom, 2022 update” Deloitte, 2 Feb. 2022, www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/topics/leadership/women-in-the-boardroom.html

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