I debated long and hard whether I would write anything about International Women’s Day this year. I do love IWD and what it represents and I am grateful to those who struggled so hard to achieve recognition for women and their contributions. It’s thanks to them that women today enjoy the freedom that they have. And for this, I am truly grateful. However, it’s certainly not all women who are experiencing this freedom.
I would feel a hypocrite though if today were the only day that I advocated for women and encouraged people to lead the change they want to see in this space. However, this is something I do consistently over the year through my various programs, workshops and networking dinners.
This week I have spoken at events in Sydney and Melbourne in celebration of International Women’s Day. My message was very clear.
It’s fantastic to have a day to celebrate women in business, to shine the spotlight on the progress and lack thereof, to get the conversations happening once again. However, we can’t stop at a day. It is everyone’s responsibility to continue to lead the conversations they need to have to create the change they want to see in this space. To challenge bias, to advocate for themselves and others and to use their voice to create change. We can’t sit back and wait for others to do it for us; each of us must lead this. It is our responsibility too – all of us.
I could be one of the lucky ones as throughout my career I have had wonderful men and women in my world who have supported me. When reflecting on this it was generally in equal measure but even slightly tipping the scales to the side of men who have been the most supportive.
During my childhood, my father always supported me, particularly in my sporting ventures. Believing I could be better than the boys, he would cheer me on from the sidelines when I was swimming and be incredibly proud when in fact I did beat the boys! He encouraged me in my working life too. So I think I adopted a mindset at a very early age that I can be as good as or even better than the boys if I worked at it.
This mindset I carried into my corporate career. During my 21 years in corporate, in a male-dominated industry, the leaders who believed in me, who empowered me to be better, who provided me with opportunities to shine, were all men. It was a sign of the times that the leaders were all male but they saw my value and eventually I sat at the leadership table with other men, and a few women. It never entered my mind that a man would be successful for a role simply because they were male. It just made me work harder to get there next time. Perhaps I was naïve but at the same time, I didn’t seek evidence to support the thought either. This was simply my experience, I know others have had and still experience a different one.
So today, I encourage the conversation to start and continue to create a more gender- balanced world. To encourage a better balance in business, in leadership, on boards, in community organisations and across the board as a whole. The conversation needs to continue and not stop with today or after the IWD events you attend, the conversation needs to happen every day. After all, a more balanced world just makes sense and statistics prove it’s more effective.
I want to thank all of the amazing women I have in my Circle of Influence and my friends, who support me, challenge me and celebrate with me. Equally, I want to thank all the fantastic men who have and continue to support me on my journey. There have been many and they continue to play a key part in my success and hopefully, I have contributed to theirs also.
Women have come a very long way over the 100+ years they have been recognized but there is a long way to go. We can’t sit back and wait for others to do it for us, for our wives, partners, sisters, daughters, nieces, and friends. We need to lead the change that we want to see in the world.
And by ‘we’ I mean you and me, men and women alike. It’s as simple as that. Use your voice and influence change where you can. That is your responsibility to create a more balanced world where things will only be better for future generations to come. Together we can create the change.