Nothing says empowerment quite like International Women’s Day. Each year we see businesses, brands, leaders, you name it, come together to celebrate diversity and change. And this year was a big one!
In support of the day we put together a lunchtime session with Neil Williamson, our CEO and Ruth Owen OBE, the CEO of our charity partner Whizz-Kidz. We had over 70 people attend from various areas of the business, to have an open discussion on some of the challenges we’re facing, how to empower women and some great personal insight from each speaker.
From my perspective, I shared experiences of being judged on my appearance and a time when I was referenced as a secretary to a male colleague at an event, when in fact I was his boss. A lot of these experiences, unfortunately unsurprising to many women attending our event.
Part of the session also focussed on how women can help themselves and each other, to become more empowered. All three of us speaking agreed that women need to take action and need to have a ‘plan’. The plan might be short or long term, but it will help you tackle obstacles you might face, but also help you recognise the big wins. It’s so important to shout about your success and how good you are. We all know our male counterparts have no problem in doing that.
Champion Each Other and Celebrate Your Own Success
I am lucky in my job that I meet so many people that give me further insight into how women feel about their careers and the limitations that some women can put on themselves. During recent interviews for a Legal Assistant role, I was struck by answers given when I asked them where they saw themselves in the future – and none of them said the Director of Legal, as they felt it was too pushy!When clearly, they had lots of qualities that would have got them there in the future.Women need to stop saying why they ‘can’t’ and start talking about why they can (sorry I will come off my soap box now!)
In order to talk about successes, we need to build on our confidence and self-belief. One woman who knows that better than most, is Ruth. Ruth was beyond inspirational and left everyone in the room completely in awe. She talked about overcoming the challenges that disability – and being a woman – brings, and how the only person that can stand in the way of you achieving something is you. Her advise on the day was so simple but so true… “Just go for it – what have you got to lose?”.
That drive and attitude is so inspiring, and whilst I think it’s something each person can work on, I also think it’s the job of the leaders in a business to spot talent and nurture progression. It’s not always easy to see something in ourselves, so we need to build a culture whereby we support and champion each other.I have to say, in our company we have many examples of where this is happening we just need to do it more and consistently
I will leave you with this final thought from Neil, “a balanced gender mix actually makes for a better business”.It’s not just about ticking the box on the gender diversity agenda, it’s about making our business be the very best!
Author: Clare Martin - Group HR Director