Following the launch of my blog last week, it was inevitable I would be writing a post for International Women’s Day (IWD). A day which has run for over a century having been established in 1911 to:
- celebrate achievements by women;
- raise awareness about gender equality;
- lobby for accelerated gender parity; and
- fundraise for female-focussed charities.
When thinking what I could write about, I thought of the endless possibilities and about how I could use my platform. At first I thought of those who have inspired me with the challenges they overcame to achieve ‘firsts’ for women. From Kamala Harris who has broken the glass ceiling into millions of shards as ‘the first female, first black and first Asian-American VP’; to Penelope Warne, ‘one of the first female leaders of a global law firm’ as Senior Partner at the firm I trained to be a lawyer in; to Baroness Hale, who not only became the first female president of the UK’s Supreme Court, but has increased female appointments to the bench including Lady Justice Rose just last week. These women have not only demonstrated the possibilities, created opportunities and inspired others, but have created pathways that encourage diversity at the highest level. An accomplishment which is instrumental to bringing about fundamental change in society.
I choose to celebrate the fact that there are so many inspirational contributions by people from all over the world, demonstrating how far women’s rights have come, by not sharing them here because they are already so widely shared. In order to truly contribute something meaningful this IWD, I’ve chosen to celebrate some of the very real and wonderful women in my life, who inspire me daily.
This year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge, is a brilliant and entirely appropriate theme to the times we find ourselves living in. A reminder that some of the struggles being faced now, are faced daily by those who challenge norms and stereotypes to increase equality of opportunity for all.
Although change can be unsettling and difficult, and in particular bringing about the initial challenge, it is fundamental to evolution. This year I asked just some of the many brilliant women in my life to give their two pence on what this year’s theme means to them: from challenges they have faced, to challenges they intend to bring, and why challenge is important. I’m proud to know every single one of them, as together we support each other and celebrate our successes globally.
What does this year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?
“On International Women’s Day I am reflecting not only on my relationships with all the wonderful women I am fortunate enough to have in my life, but also this year’s #ChooseToChallenge theme. I think we should all be looking to identify and challenge unconscious biases and to not make assumptions.
Shifting the focus to educate ourselves, questioning our own bias and acknowledging any faux pas. After all, we can’t challenge or change what we are not aware of! By admitting mistakes and learning from them, progressive change can start with one person and that person could be you.”
- Romilly – Legal PA
“This IWD, I #ChooseToChallenge workplace prejudice. I’d like to see better inclusivity in the workplace, especially in terms of neurodiversity. Companies need to adapt to different ways of learning and thinking. I would like to do more to ensure that no one else has the same experiences that I’ve had in previous roles. Businesses unwittingly benefit from embracing those who are neurodiverse”
- Megan – Marketing & Business Development Manager
“I #ChooseToChallenge individuals to get their voices heard and share their stories with the people responsible for change. The Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review led by Baroness Cumberlege examined our healthcare system’s response to reports of harmful side effects from medicines and medical devices. The review largely came as a response to patient-led campaigns on a hormone pregnancy test, an anti-epileptic drug for women of childbearing age, and Pelvic Mesh.
Last year the review’s findings were published in the report; ‘First Do No Harm’ – I strongly advise you to read it. Baroness Cumberlege and her team described how patients they spoke to, predominantly women, were dismissed, their concerns labelled as ‘women’s issues’ and in many instances they had not been given an informed choice about their treatment.
Baroness Cumberlege ensured the report was not kicked to the side like so many others, lobbying tirelessly and giving passionate speeches in the House of Lords. This saw the creation of the ‘Patient Safety Commissioner’ – an accountable statutory role responsible for promoting patient safety. We must celebrate this achievement and thank Baroness Cumberlege, her team, and the MPs and Peers who supported her. Moreover, we need to thank the women and their families who courageously shared their stories and campaigned passionately for the right to be heard. Their actions will improve our healthcare system to the benefit of girls and women for years to come.
We are at a pinnacle moment for improving women’s healthcare because the Government is listening. On 6 March 2021, Nadine Dorries MP (Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care) announced the call for evidence to better understand women’s experiences in the health care system. The findings will form the basis of a new Women’s Health Strategy.”
- Emma – Account Manager, Healthcare Public Affairs
“I #ChooseToChallenge the way women are portrayed in media. I believe it’s crucial to reinforce that women are human beings who deserve equal respect whatever their background. The media often sexualises or undermines women, which directly or indirectly as is more increasingly the case, leads many young girls to feel that their purpose is to aid men. We are strong, we are intrinsically important, and we deserve to be heard.”
- Alexandra – Account Consultant, AdTech
“I #ChooseToChallenge the pay gap between men and women, in particular where men are paid more than women whilst undertaking the same responsibilities in the workplace.”
“I #ChooseToChallenge the notion that women must always be grateful. Particularly in the world of work, women are always made to feel that they must be grateful for their position and any responsibilities they are given. This attitude stops women from reaching the highest heights and wanting more for ourselves. We need to give women permission to say ‘what I have is great, but I want more and I can do more’.”
- Jenny – NHS
“I #ChooseToChallenge the presumption that industries are gendered. As an example, I work for an environmental company that is known predominantly for its waste management. Waste management is generally thought of as a male dominated industry, similar to how I unconsciously associate the beauty industry with women. I have been fortunate to meet some incredible women who prove time and time again that the perceived gender of the industry should not carry any weight. Industries should not be thought of as inaccessible because of a false societal construct that they are male or female.”
- Bethany – Solicitor, Environmental & Commercial Law
“I #ChooseToChallenge our own inner self critic. A voice that can often hold us back or doubt us. An all too often harsh inner dialogue that says we are not good enough. I challenge women to feel empowered in their choices, celebrate achievements and back themselves every single day.”
- Elise – Teacher & Support Worker for Children with Special Needs
“I #ChooseToChallenge everyone to listen to your needs and have the courage to voice it. To be kinder and have empathy for yourself and those around you. To make time to acknowledge and celebrate all achievements, big or small.”
- Samantha – Sales Executive
“I #ChooseToChallenge stereotypes. You do not need to “act like a man” and be ruthless to succeed. Crying is not a weakness, particularly attributed to women. Crying is an emotion. You don’t need to study literature or maths because of your gender. Be who you want to be and not who someone else tells you you should be.”
- Yeva – Solicitor, Litigation & Arbitration
“I #ChooseToChallenge other people’s behaviour and review and improve my own. Change starts from within and from yourself. I’ve fortunately worked and reported to numerous strong, kind, supportive, ambitious and inspirational women during my Marketing career. Some have been encouraging, yet others have raised eyebrows and have felt the need to put on a mask in the eyes of a wider company, to act like who they think they should be and not being themselves. My view is to be genuine, to always try to treat others how you wish to be treated; be fair and empathetic. Be yourself. Do the best that you can and what’s right. We are not in a race and in competition with each other. Our journeys are all different and we can only strive to be the best version of ourselves. The best human being.”
- Sony – Marketing Manager
“This international women’s day, I #ChooseToChallenge the glass ceiling we women face in the workplace. A woman’s life is full of challenges, and I believe everyday should be celebrated as women’s day for our mothers, the way they raised us, and the way women are going ahead to achieve goals. I want to embrace taking on new challenges this year, and never to let our fears prevent us from moving forward in our professional, as well as personal lives.”
- Eva – Security and Counterparty Risk Associate
I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to everyone who contributed and supported the creation of this blog piece. I am so grateful to be surrounded by so many strong and inspirational people, worldwide. Just writing this piece has reminded me how impactful global initiatives such as IWD can be by bringing people together and enabling them to share their views, however varied.
Every day I challenge myself to be the change I want to see, to inspire, help and encourage those around me, and to never forget those who helped me along the way.
I challenge you to #ChooseToChallenge yourself, and those around you, to embrace the time of change we find ourselves in; to contribute to society’s evolution by setting a goal and evaluating your achievements in a years’ time, on IWD 2022. I’ll see you there!
For privacy purposes, please respect and understand that not all names used in this blog are real and not all those who participated are able to share their job title or the industry they work in.