Let’s all #ChooseToChallenge on International Women’s Day and beyond
International Women’s Day is a global occasion to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and to take action to accelerate gender parity.
At GingerMay we feel strongly that equality and inclusion should be something we strive for every day, but we also welcome this annual opportunity to applaud women’s successes and to raise awareness of gender bias.
During a year dominated by COVID-19, the issue of gender equality has taken on new dimensions. The actions of strong female leaders such as New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Adern and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen have inspired women across the globe. And the compulsion for more flexible working arrangements should – in theory – have helped dismantle some of the barriers preventing gender parity. But the pandemic has also highlighted a vulnerability, with half of women working in tech feeling it has delayed their career progression. The phrase ‘shecession’ was even coined to describe an economic recession impacting women more than men.
In this context, using International Women’s Day to promote a more inclusive world seems more important than ever. We’ve taken the theme of this year’s event – CHALLENGE – as the inspiration for an acrostic piece aimed at inspiring action towards equality, not just on the day itself but every day.
C = Celebrate your achievements
Women are often guilty of playing down their own success and minimising their achievements, but modesty can be overrated. We should all feel able to celebrate our triumphs and be proud of what we’ve have achieved. As an agency we’re immensely proud each time our founder and CEO, Victoria Usher, is recognised as a leading entrepreneur – most recently as a finalist in the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards – and we love to shout this news from the rooftops.
H = Highlight great work
Just as women are prone to being self-effacing about their own successes, they can often overlook the importance of highlighting exceptional work by female colleagues, suppliers or clients. Whether that’s through internal channels such as weekly team meeting or company newsletter, or external channels such as LinkedIn, taking the time to actively seek out and showcase other women’s accomplishments will help boost confidence, as well as awareness of the great work they are doing.
A = Aspire to greatness
Greatness means different things to different people. For some it might be achieving educational goals, while for others it might be landing a dream job or starting their own business. Whatever form of greatness you aspire to, make sure it is your own definition and not one put on you by other people. Rather than being hemmed in by the limiting labels and expectations society places on women, they should feel able to challenge gender stereotypes.
L = Learn from others’ success
Female role models and mentors are crucial. If women can see others achieving what they want to achieve, they are more likely to succeed themselves. They shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and connect with their peers, whether through networking events or social media. Leverage their valuable experience, ask for advice and find out how they overcame challenges to achieve their dreams.
L = Leave doubt at the door
Sometimes a lack of confidence in their own abilities holds women back just as much as any societal pressures. Even when a woman possesses all the qualifications and experience necessary to fulfil a certain role, there is a strong tendency towards imposter syndrome, where they feel they don’t deserve their position. Instead of judging themselves harshly, it’s time for women to challenge those doubts and believe in their abilities. They should tell themselves they are capable and accomplished, move forward with courage, and not disempower themselves with doubt.
E = Encourage one another
The importance of women supporting women cannot be overstated. Proactively going out of their way to boost other women’s confidence, challenge how they view and speak about themselves, and positively influence what they see as possible can make an enormous difference. Joining or even creating a support group such as a Lean In Circle – a safe space to share struggles, give and get advice, and celebrate each other’s wins – is a great way to foster the connection and encouragement everyone needs to succeed.
N = Negotiate flexible working
All employees in the UK have the legal right to request flexible working, yet many still feel doing so will call their commitment into question and limit opportunities for career progression. But if the pandemic has proved anything, it is that flexible working is not only possible, but can be mutually beneficial. Anyone negotiating flexible working, should highlight the benefits to the business as well as to themselves. Perhaps shifting hours earlier in the day will allow someone to connect in person with those valuable APAC clients, or a couple of days of remote working each week will give them longer periods of uninterrupted concentration to accomplish critical tasks.
G = Get tough on gender bias
Closing our eyes to gender discrimination is as bad as endorsing it, so calling out instances of bias when we see or experience it is vital to driving inclusivity. Bias can be deliberate or unconscious, and it is so ingrained in culture it can sometimes be difficult to recognise and acknowledge. This can be something as simple as the word ‘ambitious’ being used negatively for women and positively for men. Resources and activity programmes such as 50 Ways to Fight Bias can empower anybody to identify and call out gendered actions or assumptions.
E = Embrace equality for all
On International Women’s Day it’s natural to focus on gender equality, but at GingerMay we’re committed to breaking down barriers and creating a level playing field for everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, or disability. A diverse and inclusive workplace brings together a variety of experiences, competencies and perspectives to encourage creativity, productivity and ultimately performance. We strive for equality for all.
As the International Women’s Day website declares, “a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge.”