Four weeks to go to International Women's Day - time to challenge...

Alison Best

16

February

2021

Okay - so this post is a little early - but this year, International Women’s Day (8 March) - may well coincide with some schools reopening and perhaps, fingers crossed, some easing of the pressure on working parents. It has been a bruising twelve months for inclusion – with Covid-19 hitting some groups harder than others. The evidence suggests that, as a group, working mothers have been hardest hit in terms of career impact - though all working parents have felt it. It’s a paradox that the year has both laid bare the fragility of recent advances in gender equality, while also accelerating progress in agile working which may help fast-track a recovery.  

The theme of this year’s IWD will be #ChooseToChallenge. “So hand up high to show you’re in!” and take the 2021 IWD pose to show support. Stella Creasey MP last week formidably chose to challenge to improve the rights of expectant parents in politics. It feels, more than ever, time to challenge all types of unfairness. It’s time to choose to challenge...

  • when development opportunities are allocated based on connection not merit;
  • when board appointments continue to bypass atypical talent;
  • when – even in female dominated workplaces – women are not proportionately represented in executive decision-making roles;
  • when compliments and praise are not matched by career progression;
  • when microaggressions and microinsults go unremarked and negatively impact belonging, ambition and self-worth;
  • where unconscious bias helps perpetuate a model in which leadership looks as it looked twenty years ago; 
  • an outdated view of leadership which means that women who are themselves at work are deemed not have "leadership skills" or are assumed not to want leadership roles.

Challenge can be constructive, life-affirming, brave and mutually beneficial. With four weeks to go, what might you #ChooseToChallenge for this year’s upcoming IWD?

You can get involved here

It is vital that employers’ values support equity, that their words align with their values, and – most importantly – that their actions align with both. The time’s come to challenge more pro-actively, to celebrate difference, and undo unfairness. Any justification for not doing so in 2021 needs to be watertight.