The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. This Year’s theme is “Break the Bias”, which, unless you enjoy crossing your arms over your chest like an amateur boxer poised to deliver two simultaneous upper cuts to those dissolute harbingers of patriarchy (men), then chances are, Tuesday’s events won’t keep you too interested. There’ll probably be a questionnaire handed round your office. ‘Do you feel a victim of workplace bias?’ it will ask. Your male colleague will offer to check the ‘no’ box for you. “I know you girls have trouble with pens,” he’ll say. God bless you, Steve.
Though International Women’s Day does the Lord’s work when it comes to expanding consciousness around the thornier side of female experience- their campaign to crush taboo around the menopause has never been more crucial- there is some way to go before IWD speaks for women everywhere. After all, ‘smash the patriarchy’ balloons and a cardboard cut-out of Emmaline Pankhurst do not a revolution make. And that’s OK. The fact, however, remains: it’s easy to talk about ‘breaking the bias’, but come March 9th, tumbleweed will blow through the desert of female empowerment quicker than John Wayne on steroids.
That means one thing: when the interest in IWD has dried out, and professional, health, and commercial sectors around the world go back to normal on Wednesday, it’s up to us to keep the conversation going about women’s issues. Most importantly, we have to do more than just “Break the Bias”. We need to take practical steps to define who we are, and Own our Stories as women who seek to inspire change. We need boots on the ground, and while International Women’s Day does what it can, it’s ladies like us who have the power to make this happen.
Of course, Owning our Stories won’t solve everything; there’s a long way to go until we achieve universal female equality, with horrific injustices continuing to blight the lives and livelihoods of women the world over. But if you want to make a positive change today as a woman who commands her destiny and isn’t afraid of it, Owning your Story might be just the ticket. With that said, here are three ways you can be a champion of female empowerment this International Women’s Day, starting with the gal who deserves it all: YOU!
1. Banish that Impostor Syndrome:
Perhaps the most striking issue faced by women in the workplace today is impostor syndrome; post-career break mothers and intrepid female professionals often feel they aren’t good enough, simply by virtue of their gender. The fact that female execs are often dissuaded from seeking promotion due to impostor syndrome stands testament as to how it disproportionately affects women: 75 percent say that impostor syndrome has impacted their career, leaving them anxious in work, or hesitant to seek better-paid positions. A practical step to take this International Women’s Day is to target impostor syndrome at its root; you’ve got to seek positive affirmation- you deserve the success you’ve worked hard towards. How can you do this? Laura Newinski, deputy CEO of KPMG in the US, suggests you should “focus on what you’re good at” in order to quieten impostor syndrome if it begins to make too much noise. “I directed some special energy at the people I thought didn’t believe in me,” she told Forbes. Whilst it might take more than just positive thinking before you’re free from the shackles of impostor syndrome, it’s a good place to start when it comes to putting women where they deserve to be: at the top of the business food-chain.
Copyright: Sarah Cervantes
2. Know that you are Good Enough:
This one goes hand in hand with fighting against impostor syndrome: what women need more than anything this IWD is some encouragement. Let the women around you know that they matter, and that the best way they can demonstrate this is by Owning their Story; in creating a more authentic, open narrative around female experience, women can support each other to ensure that everybody gets a fair deal at work, and at play. To Own your Story is to fight for truth; it kills the element of female competition that many workplaces tout as a sign that women in business will tear at each other’s throats the moment they feel professional pressure. Whilst the ol’ office rivalry has long been used as an excuse to keep women out of the boardroom, supporting female colleagues by Owning your Story together fosters a female bond that is not only great for morale, but productivity too; a happy workplace gets more done. Whilst Harthcommunications’ mission as an internal communications company is to help you Own your Story, this journey starts with the realisation that standing out from the crowd by speaking your truth comes from within. Opening up to more honest forms of interaction can be difficult, but Owning your Story this International Women’s Day puts the power of your narrative back into the hands of the lady who created it. What could possibly be fiercer than that?
3. Embrace the strong female support network around you:
Also known as: women supporting women. We live in a culture where women in business exist primarily to be pitted against each other. OK, so things have changed a bit since Working Girl, but the fact remains that female presence in any role of weight remains a veritable novelty in the corporate sphere. Unsurprisingly, women may find it’s lonely not only at the top, but at the middle and the bottom, too. Of course, women are also marvellous creatures, and like a flea on the cholera-stricken rat of patriarchal ambition, just won’t go away. That’s why, whilst it isn’t up to us as women to ensure we get a seat at the table (let the men work that one out amongst themselves), it’s our job to lift each other up, to elevate each other’s voices and allow our authentic truths a chance to be heard. We all know the term ‘strength in numbers’ and never were truer words spoken, especially when it comes to fostering a warm, open community in which women may be taught to Own their Story, offer each other support, and beat impostor syndrome in the process. If you do one thing this International Women’s Day, give encouragement to a female friend or colleague who might just need a little boost; you’ll both feel stronger and ready to face the day as two members of a wider, more hopeful sisterhood.
Copyright: Lindsey LaMont
So, there you have it: three little tips to make sure that every day is International Women’s Day, both in the workplace and outside of it. And whilst March 8th is a great time to talk about smashing the patriarchy and fighting the powers that be, it’s crucial to maintain that same spirit even after the celebrations are over. And one day, many years from now, when we finally hear the resounding crack of that glass ceiling breaking over the head of anybody who ever said “Women…in my boardroom?”, well? We’ll all feel a little bit better for it.
(Author: Anna Hanlon)