How can we change the collective patterns of behavior that support persistent gender inequality?
Cheryl Najafi, is a public speaker and CEO of Love Over H8 Apparel. She launched LOH8 in response to the hatred and divisiveness that has curdled the nation as of late. LoveOverH8.com is a socially responsible clothing company where $5 from every sale is donated to organizations who fight hate, bigotry and the like. She also serves on the national board for the women’s leadership advocacy organization, Take the Lead.
“Taking a page from Gandhi, our goal is to create the change we wish to see in the world, one high-quality & flattering garment at a time! At Love Over H8 Apparel, we’re committed to superior design and ethically made clothing, all the while using our voice to create a collective of individuals who believe in #EqualRightsForEveryone.”
Agnes Wielgosz: Cheryl, you’ve said, “We believe wearing your truth creates such a culture.” Which brings me to the question of transparency. Transparency definitely casts light on the need for change; change for balancing opportunities for men and women. How do you promote transparency and diverse equality in your organization?
Cheryl Najafi: Since Love Over H8 is a mission driven company, we wear our values on our sleeves and thus attract like-minded people. An applicant learns very quickly through the interviewing process whether or not she/he is fit for the role. Since we are in the “business” of promoting equality, it’s next to impossible not have transparency and diverse equality in everything we do, with whom we are fighting and what our messaging is internally and externally.
AW: The more we know about gender intelligence the faster we grow as leaders and the farther we are able to go as leaders. Business and our economy need women in leadership. How can we change the collective patterns of behavior that support persistent gender inequality? How can leaders advance #GenderIntelligence?
CN: By embracing the differences among us, we as a society can move forward on every bias perpetuated the stigma surrounding the “other.” Within gender intelligence specifically it is important to remind us that GI has nothing to do with male or female, but the attitudes and behaviors associated with those stereotypes. Once we understand that gender bias plays into those stereotypes, we will begin to interact with others based on their attributes, not whether they are male or female. I personally feel we should look through the lens of gender neutrality and connect based on our strengths and innate talents rather than look at a person’s gender and assume he/she fits into a specific societal construct.
AW: Part of the objection to reframing gender issue is recognizing that the world — and — the subject — have changed. There’s a new generation of a leader rising, leaders who seek the opportunity to act, leaders who see themselves, their staff members, their competition and the world quite differently. They fostering conscious leadership, they run their companies with a new approach because of our increase of interconnectivity. How many leaders overlook these simple facts, and why is it so difficult to make these changes?
CN: For thousands of years we, as humans have viewed our place in the world as the supreme species with all other life forms serving us, subordinate to us. This top down worldview translated into a hierarchical structure of power. The more evolved way of perceiving the world looks less like a pyramid and more like a reinforcing loop where everything on this planet (animals, plants, the soil, etc) is interconnected and dependent on one another. Companies who embrace this synergistic model of connectedness create a culture that propels critical thinking and collaboration rather than competitiveness and cutthroat independence. However, to answer your question, this paradigm shift in managing from within rather than from the top-down is extremely slow at best. C-suite executives and mid-level managers need to realize sharing the power doesn’t translate as weak leadership. To the contrary, it shows an enormous amount of courage and self-confidence. Great leaders bring out the strengths of their colleagues, they are not threatened by sharing roles in leadership.
AW: The concept of gender equality has been part of your organization. If you could COMMUNICATE one thing to the listeners what would it be?
CN: I read such a poignant sign at the women’s march last week that read, “Quality people believe in Equality!” I couldn’t articulate that message any better.
AW: What is one area where we can EDUCATE people to improve gender equality?
CN: Education needs to be hit from all directions: home, schools, places of worship, our communities, our text books, the laws we write and rewrite. When a harmonious chorus ring from the mouths, wallets, and ballots of like-minded people, “WE SHALL OVERCOME!” ~MLK
AW: Tell me one thing that has INSPIRED you?
CN: This year of tumultuous rhetoric has inspired me to become a squeakier wheel for love and tolerance over hate. We outnumber the perpetrators of the archaic hierarchical dogma. It is time for our voices to galvanize and to be heard!