Don't Talk the Talk if you Won't Walk the Walk
There is nothing worse at work than a leader who talks about supporting their people but won’t put their words into action. Male or female, it's equally bad.
"Do as I say, not as I do" does not fly any more. Particularly on the issue of women's equality at work because it makes women feel like you’re capitalizing on a movement at our expense. We don’t need PR if you’re not going to do what is takes inside the company to make a difference. We really don't need it if you're going to speak publicly as if you're supportive and then undermine women behind closed doors.
We don't expect everyone to get behind this issue. It is not important to everybody, and no one, female or male, should feel forced to get on board. But using the issue and movement for your own gain, because of the perceived benefit to getting behind it, is a different thing altogether. Actively marketing your company as "pro-women" and not putting policies and ways of working in place to help women be treated equitably is equally bad. Especially if you are doing that to appease shareholders and attract new hires. It is false advertising, and it comes at a cost to everyone. Real work gets stalled, those new hires will leave, shareholders will lash out at the company, and performance will fall.
I will never forget meeting a prominent female CEO who spoke publicly about family support policies, the importance of creating different paths to the top, and work/life balance. Less than 10 minutes later she privately told me about how she arranged 24/7 childcare so she never had to be home and shared her belief that the traditional path is the only path to success. This was so much worse than hearing only one side of her story. It undermined every speech and PR effort she led around equality in the workplace. It was so clear she had been coached about her public persona and embraced it even though it is opposed to how she really operates.
We want our leaders to do right by us. If women's equality at work cannot be your priority right now, don't say anything. If you don't know where to begin, ask for help. If it is important to you, take some real action and start making changes. Be authentic about it. Don't say what you can't or won't do.