March the 8th marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day and it got me thinking....
Why do we need such a day? Is it really still necessary? No doubt, the movement is brilliant. It's all about celebrating women's achievements, calling for greater awareness of women's equality and the advancement of women in more senior leadership roles. Every single aim is totally laudable. And, this year, the theme is 'Make it happen'. But should women really still need to lobby like this in 2015?
Over the last 20 years, I've had a really fulfilling career in marketing. I started straight from university, joining a graduate scheme at a well-respected- in truth, I can't complain about my progress.
In 90% of my working life it has never even crossed my mind that I'm a 'Female in Business'. A female, yes, and happy to be one - but not at the expense of career progression. Fortunately, I haven't needed to consider it. I've always felt equal to my male counterparts and I've been given the same opportunities as them. In fact, I've been lucky to work with some brilliant and supportive men throughout my working life.
It would be so easy to sit back given my experience and ignore the reality. The industry I work in supports the progress of women for the most part, and while I don't personally feel the need to be treated differently because I'm female, you just have to look at the statistics and other women's stories to see that there is still a big need for International Women's Day and the fight for women to gain equality in the workplace. For example, HMRC data shows that 187,000 workers in the capital enjoy six figure salaries, of which 76% (that's 143,000) are men.
Stats like that re-frame it for me as someone who loves my career. I now feel a duty to realise and open my eyes to the broader challenges for women in business that are still faced and I will always help and speak out where I can. I've met so many inspiring women in business through the years but it's borne out by the stats that not enough are finding their way to the top table.
That said, I always have and will always continue to champion brilliance and talent regardless of sex within my business. That will never change. I'm not going to start promoting females just for being female. Although, as the Home Office GOV.UK states - recent figures show that companies with more women on their boards were found to out-perform their rivals with a 42% higher return in sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity. Enough said.
Here are my three quick tips for you to 'Make it happen':
- Grasp every opportunity - put yourself forward for every opportunity that's on offer. Everything is a learning experience, so get exposed to as many different levels, challenges and roles as possible. Seek these out for yourself, don't sit back and wait for opportunities to find you. Create networks of like-minded peers that you respect - and who respect you - and encourage and share your progress together. Stay connected. No one will drive your career forward as well as you will yourself.
- Get supercharged support - learn to quickly spot people in your career who you can learn from and who can help you develop. Nothing supercharges your career progression more than a great mentor-ally-boss. It doesn't have to be another woman...but it's a bonus if they are fab and female. For the record; in my 20 year career I can name just two people who helped 'supercharge' my career - one male and one female. They're like gold dust, so stay loyal and stick close. On the flip side, be brave enough to move on when you are not being inspired and nurtured.
- Be super-selective in your job choices. Aim to work for people you respect, I've always felt strongly that people need balance in work and out. You can still be successful and driven and have a great life outside the office. This choice is especially relevant if you choose to have children. The marketing industry is demanding and you have to accept that, but if you work somewhere with a culture driven from the top that is 'human' and balanced then you will have far more chance of a successful work / life balance.
Like me, many global corporations actively support International Women's Day on March 8th. But I firmly feel that every day can be International Women's Day.