As Oscar nominee Regina King vows to hire ‘50% women,’ here’s how to work toward gender parity at your own workplace

New research reinforces the importance of pay transparency.

Regina King made a long-term commitment to gender parity, and so can you.

The now Oscar-nominated actress, accepting a best supporting actress Golden Globe this month for her “If Beale Street Could Talk” performance, promised to hire more women over the next two years and challenged her fellow gatekeepers to step up, too.

“The reason why we do this is because we understand that our microphones are big and we are speaking for everyone,” King, 48, said during her speech. “And I just want to say that I’m going to use my platform right now to say in the next two years, everything that I produce, I am making a vow — and it’s going to be tough — to make sure that everything that I produce that is 50% women.”

“And I just challenge anyone out there — anyone out there who is in a position of power, not just in our industry, in all industries — I challenge you to challenge yourselves and stand with us in solidarity and do the same,” she added.

The star-powered Time’s Up movement has shone a spotlight on Hollywood’s meager representation of women, people of color and other minority groups. A study last summer from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, for example, found no substantial improvement from 2007 to 2017 in the representation of women, people of color, LGBT characters or characters with disabilities. Behind the camera, women made up just 8% of directors behind the top 250 domestic releases in 2018, a recent San Diego State University study found.

The gender balance isn’t much better outside of Hollywood, despite women making up just over half of the U.S. population. Women fill about 24% of the 535 congressional seats and nearly 28% of statewide executive seats. Only 5% of S&P 500 CEOs are women, while 16.5% of 2,000 top executives are female.

“It’s bold, it’s audacious, yes — but of course it’s feasible,” Kim Churches, CEO of the equity and education nonprofit American Association of University Women, told Moneyish of King’s proposition.

Here are some steps you can take to close the leadership gender gap at your own workplace, whether you work in HR, leadership or the rank-and-file workforce:

Leadership should conduct a pay audit and leadership audit to get a sense of where the company is at every level, bottom to top. “Are you being fair in equal pay? How are you laying out your diversity goals for management (and) for senior leadership? How are you ensuring that promotions are handled equitably? Are there more things you can do on flexible schedules and improving parental leave procedures?” Churches said. “Those types of goals all can lead towards gender parity in the workplace.”

Go beyond platitudes. “By making a firm commitment, by outlining a goal with quants behind it, means that you’re understanding the value of gender diversity and you’re committed to making it happen … not just platitudes, but making it a real and truthful priority,” Churches said. Set measurable goals, she added, since what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get accomplished. It’s “important to say, ‘This is our goal within this timeline,’ and then lay it out on paper as to how you’re going to achieve those goals,” she said.

Recruit a diverse group of people. Make sure you’re selecting from a pool of candidates diverse in gender, race, ethnicity and background, Churches said, and that “hiring practices are in keeping with their company’s values.”

Be transparent about pay. Disclosing gender discrepancies in pay can help reduce the gender wage gap, according to research published this week in the Harvard Business Review — as well as boost the number of women being hired and the number of female workers promoted from low on the totem pole into more senior roles.

Transparency on an individual basis helps, too. “Lots of research shows that when you know what other people are making and other people know what you’re making, it enables you to better negotiate for what it is you feel you deserve and create more of a level playing field,” Anna Beninger, senior director of research at the women’s leadership research nonprofit Catalyst, told Moneyish. “I talk openly about my salary with all of my friends, with my colleagues, with anyone who wants to talk about it — especially women — because we have to tear down the fear that’s sort of been ingrained in us about money.” The more you discuss salary, she added, the more you demystify it.

If you’re not in a position of power, seek out opportunities to educate decision-makers within your organization on the benefits of diversity, said Alison Cook, a Utah State University professor of management who studies diversity in the workplace. Cook “took every opportunity (she) could to bring it up” at her own university, she said, like during one presentation she gave to an advisory board. After she talked about what the school could do to increase its diversity, two people followed up to seek additional information.

“(Some leaders) want to make the change … but they don’t even know where to start,” Cook said. “So you give them some of the basics, and I do think that helped.”

Watch your words. The words you use while interacting with colleagues on a daily basis are “incredibly impactful, and can reinforce biases without you even knowing it,” Beninger said. For example, instead of calling a female coworker’s style “abrasive” — which can help reinforce the double-bind that women in leadership often face — keep the focus on her work. And rather than remarking that a woman is “helpful,” thereby relegating her to a support role and potentially hurting her chances of scoring a leadership opportunity, talk about her contributions.

Men, particularly those in power, need to play a part. “Because men hold the vast majority of power, men have to actively be engaged in participating in all of these efforts to level the playing field,” Beninger said. On a day-to-day basis, she added, they can intervene in any workplace microaggressions or sexist comments they witness against women. “They need to interrupt that bias and be real role models with their peers.”

Normalize the use of work flexibility. Working moms can fall prey to the stigma associated with using flexible working arrangements to care for their kids, Beninger pointed out. So working dads, child-free folks and anyone else can counter that by being transparent about their own reasons for using flexibility, whether it’s to care for a child, hit up a yoga class or meet with the plumber. “If you can create a culture that is conducive to anybody using flexibility for any reason they want and that’s not held against them,” she said, “that can go a long way.”

Advocate for your colleagues. One simple way to do that is to send a thank-you or congrats email to a coworker who has helped you or done particularly impressive work, Beninger said, and Cc their boss or others with power and influence. If it feels weird to copy the boss, encourage your colleague to forward the message along or use it in a performance review, she said. “Women are socialized to be modest and to not champion themselves. The beautiful thing about these emails is that women are using other people’s words,” she said. “It goes a long way to boosting women’s visibility when they may not necessarily feel comfortable doing it themselves.”