#choosetochallenge - the slogan of this year's International Women's Day.
This is the slogan of this year’s International Women’s Day, a day designed to both celebrate women’s achievements and accelerate gender parity.
Making the choice to challenge has been a difficult one for me up until now. Not only does it take a certain level of confidence, you also need to have true conviction in what you are challenging, rather than just jumping on the passing PR bandwagon.
It’s taken me a while to realise that the reason I have struggled with this conviction is because I am one of the lucky ones. Since joining the tech industry almost 6 years ago, I have felt incredibly supported throughout by both team and channel, and my confidence in the workplace has been boosted by the encouragement of fellow peers. Going back to work when Rafael (my first son) was less than 4 months old was not without its inevitable challenges or guilt but it would have been impossible were if not for a shared belief by both my partner and I in the importance of co-parenting in its truest sense.
Which in turn has made me think – how can my positive experience be replicated? What needs to happen to a) ensure women feel confident in their potential to excel in the STEM industry and b) to ensure women have the same opportunities as men to return to where they left off in their careers.
In the case of the former, I have long believed that beating stereotypes of any kind begins at Day Zero. The more we, and by we I mean all leaders, not just the female leaders, can do to get into early age classrooms and provide inclusive mentorship to all demographics, the better our chances are of creating a vision of the STEM industry that both males and females can see themselves within. Growing up there was certainly no-one encouraging me to take a proactive look at all industries for career possibilities, to open my mind to all opportunities. With the singular exception of my father of course, who continually told me the IT industry needed more women – but it would have meant working with family (which I swore never to do…) and who listens to their dad at the age of 15 anyway.
When it comes to having children, let’s face it, there is (sadly) no denying that the woman is going to be the one carrying the precious cargo for 9 months and for the initial period of a young baby’s life. That’s just what physiology dictates. But let’s challenge the assumption that it should be the woman who takes the full year out or has to go part-time to look after the family and home. Affordable childcare and increased flexibility of working for both men and women will go a huge way towards supporting this. Simply hiring a woman does not equal true parity – the closing of the gender gap needs to derive from true enablement.
And so, in writing this, comes my challenge to you. As International Woman’s Day approaches, before you type the hashtag #IWD2021, ask yourself the question – what are you actively doing and what more could you do? Could you play a greater role in your local education sector? Offer more work experience? Assess the viability of flexible working models within your business to better enable both parents to support each other with childcare duties? Challenge your actions but, most importantly, challenge your own conviction and facilitate change accordingly.