THE BLOG

Can You Define Success?

08/03/2013 15:31 GMT | Updated 08/05/2013 10:12 BST

It's that time of year again - International Women's Day. The time when people around the world take a step back to consider the position of women today, how far we've come and how far we've still got to go.

So what does "defining success" mean? When I think about this concept, it's the iPhone that springs to mind - a personalised device which was designed bit by bit in beautiful lines of code that adapt to you and do what you ask. With a front end screen that helps you make sense of life, and human interfaces that predict where and when you will make certain choices.

You see, I work in IT - or rather, I lead a team of people who create technology solutions - and I sometimes wonder whether the nirvana of 'having it all' and defining career success your way could ever be as simple as constructing a piece of anonymous code. You don't ask the system for permission - you just make it work for you, a bit like plugging in the right algorithm.

My formula that enables me to define my success will be different than yours. In fact, no two women will define success the same as we all have our own stories and notions of what it means to be successful. That said, sometimes you can detect a common thread.

After 15 years in business, I have the privilege of supporting and helping to develop other women, who, as one graduate recently told me, "are not going to waste any time banging their heads on glass ceilings." Clearly, the appetite exists to strive for the highest reaches of their careers. They want to walk straight through that door and I look forward to holding it open for them. As Madeleine Albright so memorably put it, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." So, to help those women take their first step through the door, I've provided my own personal algorithm for defining female success.

First, women need to advocate for themselves. How many of us insist it's "the team" that deserves the credit and not ourselves, when we've personally driven a project through to success and been complimented on our performance? I call it the "it's not me, it's all of us" syndrome, that moment where we when we sabotage our own success. We need to learn how to gracefully accept praise and be acknowledged for our achievements in front of our peers.

And second, leaders should not focus on fixing individuals but on creating inclusive and diverse workplace cultures. In other words, it's the bigger picture - the overall culture - that matters within a company. Leaders should be aware of unconscious bias and make tangible efforts to ensure leadership - today's and tomorrow's - is diverse.

International Women's Day is a time when we can take a step back and celebrate what we've achieved so far, while focusing on what still needs to be done. It may take my lifetime to see meaningful and sustainable change but, in the words of Al Green himself, "a change is gonna come." International Women's Day is simply another reminder that change is on its way - if we make it happen our way.

For further insight on work-life balance and issues female professionals face, see "Defining Success", an Accenture survey of 4,100 business executives in 33 countries, released as part of their 2013 celebration of International Women's Day.