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8 March 2021

International Women’s Day: What does it really mean to you?

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Posted by: Katy Mcminn

International Women’s Day; what does it really mean to you?

A crowdsourced article

International Women’s Day falls on March 8th 2021. This year the theme is choose to challenge. Because – put simply- a challenged world is an alert world. We can all choose to challenge by calling out gender bias and inequality. Likewise, we can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements too. 

But what does International Women’s day mean to me? And how do I choose to challenge? 

Well as someone who entered the workplace having become a parent as a teenager, it has been my privilege as a senior HR professional to spot and call out unconscious bias and challenge gender stereotypes. My advice to all women is to be clear on what you personally and professionally stand for and ensure every action reconfirms this. My mantra is to always make it my mission to choose to challenge anything that needs my intervention and I truly hope others follow suit with this too. 

With this in mind, below are a number of comments from some truly inspiring people talking about what International Women’s Day (IWD) means to them and how they have also made it their mission to choose to challenge the status quo. 

Take a read to find out more in our crowdsourced IWD blog…

Sophie Cornish, Managing Partner Busby & Fox and Founder

“International Women’s Day has gained so much momentum in the past decade. As our agendas have changed and developed over those years, so has the meaning – for me – of IWD. What I see in this year’s theme, #choosetochallenge, is a fresh generation of young women who are challenging us all to think and live differently. Whether they’re addressing issues of discrimination, inequality or the environment, I think we should celebrate the new wave of female activists who are finding the voice and the following that’s needed to make ours a better world for everyone.”

Lucinda Carney, CEO of Actus:

“We need to be more mindful than ever in 2021 about the gender inequality caused by women continuing to do the lion’s share of unpaid work caused by homeschooling and homeworking and the associated stresses. I would love to see managers actively encouraging homeworking fathers to ensure that they are sharing these burdens more equally”

Matt Stark, Partner at Mazars

“In helping to build the foundations of a fair and prosperous world, Mazars has a responsibility to create a diverse and inclusive environment, with true equality of opportunity and the ability for each of our people to bring their whole selves to work. This is at the heart of our commitment to inclusion and diversity, and underpins our work towards ensuring that gender balance is represented at all levels of seniority across the firm. In 2021 we are proud to celebrate International Women’s Day and support its message to #ChooseToChallenge.”

Sir Peter Estlin, Alderman of the City of London Corporation

“Diversity of thought is a critical component of the boardroom, yet few boards seldom fully reflect the breadth of their stakeholders, the people they employ, or those they serve. As we mark IWD again, let’s recognise what it represents and think about how each of us can bring greater diversity to our boards, to the decisions we make and the outcomes we seek.” 

Debbie Leverson, Head of HR at Coverys Managing Agency Ltd

“Commencing my career as an HR professional within largely male dominated environments, I have observed over the last few years a very positive shift, with conscious and effective steps being implemented by organisations to be more inclusive and diverse.  The role of women especially in leadership has significantly improved and I am proud to be a part of this change.  I am excited for the future, not only diversity and inclusion as a whole, but the role of women in my company expanding in a positive and collaborative way across all levels.”

Anabela Yourell, Director of Stress Free HR Ltd:

“Having suffered pregnancy and maternity discrimination with my first child, a time that was supposed to be full of joy, I know first-hand the effects of that type of prejudice. I have unfortunately had the pleasure of successfully supporting many friends with this too… I believe there is still a lot of work to be done to educate management on how to treat the news of a newly pregnant employee, unconscious bias and effective communication and inclusion during the maternity leave period!”

Clare Hodcroft, Director at Spark People Solutions

“I have learnt so much from some fantastic senior female leaders, but the biggest learning was to stay true to who I am and what I believe in. Don’t ever compromise your values or try to be someone you are not; if it is not working find an organisation with a culture that is right for you, life is too short! This year continues to be tough, be brave, be kind, be realistic, be a great role model for other women. As Judy Garland said “Always be the first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

Lynne Ingram, Managing Associate, Freeths LLP:

“IWD means to me a time to reflect on the “firsts”. These “firsts” may arise from a conscious challenge to gender injustice (to name a few the Ford Machinists Strike which led to the Equal Pay Act 1970, Kathrine Switzer who defiantly ran the Boston Marathon even though women were barred, or more recently #metoo movement). The “firsts” may also be girls globally having equal access to education or women undertaking roles for the first time such as lawyers (100 years ago) firefighters (30 years ago)  or even refereeing a champions league football match (1 year ago). All of these “firsts” contribute to my hope for 2021 and onwards that if we (and by we I mean all genders) keep challenging – our daughters, their daughters and granddaughters will have equal opportunities available to them not based on their gender but their attributes, skills and values.”

Katy McMinn, co-founder and director of HRi

“When working in professional services, I was involved in addressing gender equality and was incredibly proud to be a part of that movement. The key thing I have learnt is that for women to be successful and challenge gender stereotypes, we need to stay true to our own individual values, rather than trying to behave in a way that fits the mould of what is traditionally expected from senior professionals.”

Karl Goose, Managing Director, Ferrovial Construction:

“I have been in the engineering industry for over 25 years and have had the chance to work with amazing professionals across the board. The reality is that there is still a lot to do on gender-balance. We live in times of transformation and opportunity. As a leader, I cannot see a better moment to be an agent for positive change. At Ferrovial, it is my mission to promote an environment which support, empower and foster progression of our female talent. From mentoring schemes to improved benefits (including launching one of the best maternity schemes in the industry) to support better work-life balance, we are on a quest to make our company an Employer of Choice.”

Mary Asante, director of HRi

“There are still a significantly high number of men working in the technology sector than there are women. Highlighting the innovative and positive contribution that women in tech can and are making to changing the world, will encourage more women to be inspired to join the industry. Mentoring and supporting upcoming female professionals will also be key to attaining gender balance in tech too.”

What will you Choose to Challenge?

By Ruth Cornish, co-founder and director of HRi