International Women’s Day #IWD2018 is a day when ordinarily I am frustrated and angry because there is so much to change and so little that I feel I can do to really make a difference. Sexism, misogyny and inequality are so engrained in our society that they are normal and go unnoticed.
In the last year, we have called out sexual abuse and harassment – it turns out that everyone has a #MeToo story to share. In the last year, Carrie Gracie, the China Editor for the BBC, resigned from her post thereby making a clear statement about pay discrimination over gender for the BBC’s international editors. In the last year, Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister announced that she was pregnant and is now a torchbearer not just for women in New Zealand but women globally.
…but despite these huge leaps forward, the World Economic Forum recently reported that we are heading backwards on gender equality. Women are excluded from positions of power and decision making, money is being withdrawn from vital support services for women, the gender pay gap is still massive in some industries.
This year, I am making a commitment to do something, however small, about the little things that have affected me over the last year.
On this International Women’s Day, #IWD2018 I think we should all make some commitments, however small, to fight for women and for gender equality.
No single act will change the world, but a million small acts will start to make a difference.
Set up a monthly donation to Women’s Aid.
I have read many articles, watched a number of documentaries and heard many stories about domestic violence and abuse over the last year. Every single story has stuck with me. What really struck me was how often victims of domestic abuse do not realise that they are suffering from domestic abuse. It is so true that toxic and controlling relationships creep up on you. The Prince Charming fairy-tale can very quickly turn into a dark and frightening place. I think that the support that Women’s Aid offer is brilliant – there is just not enough of it.
If you would like to join me in making a donation to Women’s Aid, you will find the link here.
I am making a commitment to:
Do more to champion and sponsor more junior women in my work place.
I now hold quite a senior position in my organisation. Not mega-senior, I don’t run the place or anything, our organisation is about 4000 strong and I am in the top 250 or so. I am a leader and I have influence. I don’t think I am doing enough to use that influence to champion and sponsor more junior women.
During the first five years or so of my career, I regularly used to receive feedback that I was quiet and lacked confidence. “Being more confident” was an uphill struggle. I would say things in meetings and I felt that my words would drift into the air only to then be repeated by a man when they would land and have a real impact. I will always be a woman and will always have to fight twice as hard as my male colleagues, but now that I am more senior my words do have an impact.
Championing and sponsoring more junior women in the workplace means three things for me:
I am going to interrupt those who interrupt junior women.
Women are interrupted more frequently than men. Women are cut off mid-sentence. When I am chairing meetings, I am going to make a point of interrupting the interruptors. “Lola was speaking. Let her make her point first”.
I am going to repeat, and give credit for, the good points that junior women make.
I often chair meetings. I am going to make a conscious effort to ensure that women’s voices are heard in my meetings and that women get an equal amount of air time. When a woman makes a point that I don’t feel has landed in the way it deserves to, I am going to repeat that point, giving credit to the junior colleague. “Lianne made a really valuable point earlier…”
I am going to mentor more junior women
So often I see women self-sensor and not apply for roles that they are more than capable of. I see women applying for easier, less-challenging roles when they return from maternity leave and then feeling unchallenged and dissatisfied in their roles. I see women fail interviews on return from maternity leave when I know that they would be brilliant at the job, their heads were just not in the right place to perform at interview.
I am making a commitment to become a mentor, to become a sponsor, to coach women in interview techniques, to brag about their achievements on their behalf and to create the environment in which everyone and they believe that they can and will do a brilliant job.
What are you going to do for International Women’s Day #IWD2018 ?