International Women’s Day Can Set the Tone for a Better Future
As March approaches, so does International Women’s Day. This is always a trending topic on social media, which is great. Granted, many of those hashtags come from trolls demanding to know why there is no International Men’s Day (short answer, there is – November 19th), but for the most part, the conversation is all about celebrating women. Hurrah!
If I could be so bold, however, I’d like to make a suggestion. While I am all for celebrating the many and varied achievements of women past and present, inside and outside of the corporate world, IWD can also be an opportunity to take stock and build a future based around greater equality. To achieve this, we should be challenging the stereotypes that still exist around male and female roles in the workplace – and how we interact.
I have an example from when I applied for some extra-curricular training through an employer. I am a firm believer that nobody with serious ambitions of success ever stops learning, so I was excited by the opportunity to gain further insights on my own steam. I was shocked to be met with concern that this would impact the time that I could dedicate to my family.
Now, discussion of the so-called, “invisible work” that working women are subjected to is a well-trodden path. The last thing this article needs is me dredging the subject up again. I could not help but ponder, though. Would this question have been put to one of my male counterparts? If not, why not – and why is it an appropriate question for a female employee? I do not doubt that the question was born of concern and had no desire to offend, but it did not seem to take me as a human and working woman into consideration. Just my roles as a wife and mother.
Personally, after a family dinner and engaging in the eternal bedtime battle with my children, I like to spend my evenings studying and learning. You’ll often find me glued to the TEDx app or reading while some of my friends are enjoying the latest buzzworthy box set on Netflix. For each of us, this is the perfect way to unwind and disconnect. Neither of us considers the other’s interest better or worse. It’s simply how we each prefer to relax, and we’re all the happier for it.
The upshot is, every one of us is unique and has our own path to contentment. We need to start considering this on a personal level, not making assumptions that we know what is best for others based on gender. This, in turn, means that women will feel a little more comfortable in addressing comments or questions that – while often well-meaning – can be misinterpreted, and even considered offensive.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. Despite what an element of the online populace will tell you, working women are not seeking out reasons to be offended. We’re not all part of a secret cabal, meeting regularly to discuss how we are going to dismantle the corporate world, firing all the men and replacing them with our friends. We had to stop those meetings – they were getting in the way of family time.
I’m kidding of course, but there is a serious point behind the delivery. I love International Women’s Day and consider it worthy of marking and celebrating. I’m just saying that it’s also the perfect opportunity to take stock of how we view and interact with each other on a day-to-day basis. Working women have been balancing family life and our corporate commitments for years. If your female colleagues, subordinates or superiors have an idea, worry a little less about how they’ll be able to keep all their plates spinning. Speaking for myself, I’ve been doing this for several years and I haven’t dropped the family china yet. Once we start to view everybody in the corporate world as individuals, we’ll be one step closer to true equality.
About LEAD Network Europe
The LEAD Network Europe is a non-profit and volunteer-led organisation whose mission is to attract, retain, and advance women in the consumer products and retail sector in Europe through education, leadership, and business development. The LEAD Network is run by and for its members, women and men, and we value every individual for their unique perspective. With a primary focus on promoting gender equality the organisation strives for the advancement of women of every race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, educational background, national origin, religion, physical ability and lifestyle. Its vision is of a fair, diverse and vibrant industry where everyone can thrive. A diverse workforce where both men and women are enabled to contribute their full potential and lead their organisations to the next level of value creation. LEAD Network accounts for 18,000+ members – both women and men – from 81 countries.
For more information, please visit www.lead-eu.net