International Women’s Day: will your company be bold for change?
Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day to celebrate women, unity, reflection, advocacy and action; encouraging everyone to #BeBoldForChange.
It is also about highlighting female social, economic, cultural and political achievements and is a time to push for gender parity.
This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange. This is a call for change to make the world a more ‘gender inclusive’ place. A huge part of this involves our workplaces, where many women still face inequality, with unequal pay and rights.
International Women’s Day is a day we take celebrate how far we have come for gender equity in the workplace. It is also a day for us to reflect, on how us as leaders in our industry can further to make our workplaces and communities safer and inclusive for not only women, but persons of disability, our LGBTQ colleagues, refugees, migrant workers, people struggling with mental illness, visible and religion minorities and or any person in our society who live in the margins – this is a day to remember we need diversity to make us stronger, more inclusive, safer and happier. – Pamela McInroy, Health & Safety Specialist – Diversity & Inclusion, Crossrail
The history of IWD
The date has been marked since the early 1990s and is not attributed to any one organisation or charity. Instead it is a combination of governments, charities, corporations, academic institutions and women’s networks that take part.
“The world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation.” IWD says.
“Many from a younger generation may feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality.
“The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements.”
Last year’s campaign
Last year, organisations and individuals around the world supported the #PledgeForParity campaign and committed to help women and girls achieve their ambitions; challenge conscious and unconscious bias; call for gender-balanced leadership; value women and men’s contributions equally; and create inclusive flexible cultures. From awareness raising to concrete action, organisations rallied their people to pledge support to help forge gender parity on International Women’s Day (IWD) and beyond.
But the World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186. This is too long to wait. Around the world, IWD can be an important catalyst and vehicle for driving greater change for women and moving closer to gender parity.
A Day Without a Woman
Today across America many women are striking from their domestic and industrial labour in solidarity with marginalised women around the world.
“A Day Without a Woman” will encourage workers from all sectors to participate in an international general women’s strike, by walking out from offices, ignoring domestic chores and wearing red – a colour that “signifies love and sacrifice”, the Independent reports.
Make a difference
You can get involved today and beyond:
Access IWD 2017 #BeBoldForChange resources and activity guidance.
Watch the IWD videos or use them as an inspiring resource at IWD events.
Submit your IWD event or publish a page.
Read the latest IWD 2017 news from across the world … and more.
Women as leaders
To mark IWD, Executive Associate Coach at business transition specialist Working Transitions, Jayne Harrison, has given the following advice for women aiming to work in leadership positions.
During her 15 years in the industry, Jayne has supported many women to achieve their career goals.
“It’s my belief that there has never been a better time for women in leadership roles. Of course, we’re a way off the ideal as yet. In the meantime, women can support themselves by holding onto their authentic selves. It’s still a very male dominated environment out there – regardless of your position.” Jayne says.
“That said, there are a number of areas to help build confidence if you are serious about competing in this marketplace.”
- Culture and values – does the organisation you work for treat all employees with inclusivity and dignity? If not, use your feet to vote. If your values are aligned, then recognise this as a benefit. Who doesn’t want their leader to ‘walk the talk’?
- Be very clear about your own value and why anyone should employ you. How long has it been since you last reviewed your skills, achievements, and strengths? Write them down and be very clear on what is it you bring to the party. I find working with leaders on the detail of their facets creates improved confidence, self-efficacy and self-belief.
- Feedback – keep a regular journal or book of feedback and seek it out regularly. An annual 360 or a Reflected ‘Best Self’ exercise is a great way of understanding where you are in relation to your career ambitions. But just as effective are team one to ones. Creating a team atmosphere of honest feedback also builds trust, reduces ‘blame’ tactics, and creates more inclusive environments.
- Understand your ‘dark side’ or what might potentially be getting in the way of your success. Hogan provide a very good psychometric around leadership derailment factors. Self-awareness is key in leadership – whatever your gender.
- Mindset – write a weekly list and include: 1) 3 things that have gone well 2) what have you learned and 3) what are you grateful for. This isn’t ‘happy clappy’ stuff – it is about forging neural pathways of positivity; recognising the positive rather than the negative. This practice has also been shown to improve resilience when things don’t quite go as planned.
- Be prepared to talk about what you are good at and what you have achieved. This isn’t about boasting; it’s about letting your organisation know you are engaged, committed, and enthusiastic. I hear countless stories of X got the promotion because they spent longer raising their profile and networking with other leaders. If this overt method doesn’t feel comfortable, find a way that does. Don’t just assume that everyone knows you’re doing a good job.
- Get out there – mentor, be mentored, network, speak and collaborate widely. There’s a whole world out there ready to receive you and also provide support, if we’d only ask for it! Not only that, but it’s a great way of ensuring that you’ll remain current and non-institutionalised. Your manager will thank you for keeping a finger on the pulse regarding the industry you are in.
- Pay attention to your self-talk. If your sentence contains ‘should’ ‘ought’ ‘must’ then stop and ask yourself ‘is this really true? I should work for at least 40 – 60 hours as a leader – who says? I should be able to do X, Y and Z myself? Where is the evidence for that? Beware of the pressure your self-limiting talk is putting you under. Sometimes it’s hard to realise when we’re doing this – work with a coach or a trusted advisor/mentor who is happy to challenge your thinking.
- Make friends with your imposter. Impostor syndrome has been described as ‘a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalise their accomplishments’. In early research it was seen as predominantly a syndrome that affected high achieving women (although it is now accepted that men also suffer from this to some extent). Despite external evidence of competence, you might think you are a fraud, you’ll be found out any minute and do not deserve the success you have achieved. This often goes hand in hand with perfectionism – but not always. Raising awareness of the imposter is the first step in coaching and then working to dispel it using a variety of techniques (some of which are mentioned above). The imposter may prevent women taking on more senior roles if they have to do so proactively; particularly if they have ‘happened upon seniority by luck’.
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