Today is International Women’s Day, which “celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.” The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. There is a worldwide call “to help forge a better working world- a more inclusive, gender equal world.”
To forge a better working world, we must care to break down remaining barriers to equal pay and to career fields where historically only men could apply. We must eliminate prejudices associated with historically female roles within organizations, and we must minimize the obstacles that women often must overcome in their pursuit of realizing their dreams, their potential and even their financial independence. We must not be threatened by women who exude confidence, are visionaries and display exemplary leadership. We must be adamant about the overdue progress necessary for each woman to be fully empowered just by naturally being who she is—expressing her unique talents, skills, innate gifts and experience. These critical changes will allow women to boldly contribute to forging a better working world.
There is no time to resent, to regret or to blame anyone for past actions. There are too many positives that can result from each of us instead focusing our energies, individually and collectively, on being bold for change. Let’s come together to accelerate our evolution towards an inclusive, gender-equal world.
#BeBoldForChange signifies to me that we must encourage every woman to feel comfortable asking for help when she knows she needs support, and for every one of us, man and woman, to offer our support when we have an inkling that a woman needs it.
Since I started blogging in 2014 and began to publicly assert my support and advocacy for inclusive leadership and diversity in organizations and boards, I have also committed to use my platform to increase awareness of International Women’s Day. I am doing what I can to raise awareness for intentional support for all women, both at home and in the workplace, and for women not to feel like they need to do it all on their own.
Recently I have been reminded that even self-sufficient women are frequently alone on their journeys. Many young women don’t have an understanding of the opportunities that lie ahead for them. Many accomplished women wishing to engage in roles where they can further have an impact to forge a better working world are unclear about how to network to achieve their next set of goals. Women who are confronted with a serious illness, or with being a caregiver, struggle with juggling all aspects of their lives while maintaining a strong façade.
Universally women need to have more support on their paths towards gaining, maintaining and excelling in the seats where they belong. This is inclusive of deserving equal access to opportunities; seeking and receiving equal compensation for equal work; being empowered and invested in as an entrepreneur; being financially secure when theirs is the lone salary for a household; having choices in the face of a health or financial crisis.
Being bold for change begins with being inclusive within our own circles at home and in the workplace. No matter how strong-willed and self-sufficient a woman might seem, don’t assume that she doesn’t need your support. (The worst that can happen is that she turns you down.) Without your offer of support, who knows what forces might spiral her away from the potential she is poised for. We can’t afford to not have every single girl and woman being engaged to achieve gender equality.
I was raised by a strong and inspiring mother who was widowed when I was 2.5 years old. Her early, unwavering support carried me through my years in the minority as a female STEM student, a French Canadian learning English while going through college in computer science. Beyond my mother, knowing how to ask for and receive support while forging my path as an entrepreneur on foreign ground, a Canadian alumni in the US, would have been invaluable. I was confident and competent while emerging as a globally oriented high tech female leader in a male world, a woman management consultant passionate to work with predominantly male boards and leadership teams …and, it has been a journey. While there have been incredible highs in my career, there have also been immense challenges, lots of introspection and many fresh beginnings. I have been humbly finding my path, seeking to express my potential and truthfully not always knowing what was fair and possible for me to request and ask for in support of fully claiming my seat and the things that go with it—like equal compensation and benefits.
Over the years, being in touch with the joy and the heartfelt pains of pursuing a career where frequently there were no female role models, where at times I might have feared the unknown, I embraced it, choosing to fully live in the present and often being prepared to live without a safety net. Because of my experience, I have developed a great empathy for women (and men) who, just like me, strive to be true to themselves while making a better working world. I have lent my hand to many, not to tell them what to do, but to listen without judgment to their aspirations, to understand the challenges they’ve had to overcome, or simply encourage them to pursue their dreams. I have, and continue to, opened many doors for others. I firmly believe everyone, regardless of their gender, should be fueled and supported in becoming a full and authentic expression of who they are and being instrumental in creating a gender-equal world.
Men, #BeBoldForChange. Be allies and mentors for the women in your lives. Women, let’s #BeBoldForChange and genuinely support each other. Together, let’s rise.