Providing an opportunity to pause each year, International Women’s Day gives us a moment for reflection on progress so far, also recognising issues that still need to be addressed.
Across many industries, recent years have seen huge pushes for progress, encouraging better representation and achieving gender equality in senior leadership as well as in the younger generations.
So, what advice would women give to others who are just starting their careers? Talk Business spoke to a range of industry experts who offered up guidance based on their lived experiences.
Break the mould
With so many expectations and pressures placed on women at all stages of their lives, it can be hard to always stay true to who they are. Emily Plummer, Marketing Director at Beyond Encryption, urges women to fight this notion: “Embrace your quirks, we need more individuals, not carbon copies.”
She adds: “Be actively curious about what interests and excites younger generations, they are the future.”
Camille Renaudin, Head of Success at Qualifio, talks about her experience of the pressure to change oneself to meet someone else’s expectations.
“Be yourself, don’t play a role in order to move forward in your career. As a woman who is quite slight in stature, I sometimes felt like I had to be more masculine at work in order to stand out. But I’ve seen over the years that believing in myself and my skills is far more effective. I am enough, I am good at what I do. So stay true to yourself and trust yourself, don’t try to be someone else.”
Always be open to learning
Many generations of women have come before ours, fighting different injustices but all with the same goal in mind for gender equality. Women should always be open to learning, and always remain intellectually curious, suggests Sue Dunmill, HR Manager at Mackwell.
“There is always more to learn from life, and from those around you, and taking that on board you will continually grow into the best version that you can be,” she adds.
Caroline Gray-Mason, Director of Water and Energy Solutions at Cenergist, explains how women can do this in the workplace.
“Find a good mentor, someone to sound off to. It’s important to work hard, but do so as honestly as you can.”
Daria Polończyk, Head of Analysis and Design Team at Future Processing, emphasises the importance of women supporting each other within the workplace, explaining that this should be sought out when women are applying for roles.
“Seek out mentors and mentees, while supporting other less experienced women yourself. Look for workplaces where diversity is valued and used (but not imposed) for the sake of wisdom and creativity.”
Being open to learning goes further than the individual, though; companies are only just beginning to understand the value of representation. Monica Majumdar, Head of Creative Services at Retail Marketing Group, describes her experience of reaching a role where she can show younger women what is possible.
“Representation is something that is also particularly important to me. I’ve seen the importance of this when attending recruitment events and having younger candidates of ethnic minority see that achieving a role of my level is possible. When I first started as a ‘Saturday girl’ I never thought I would be representing the marketing of a business of this scale, and now I can show younger women that it is attainable.”
Never give up
Qualifio’s Renaudin illustrates the importance of letting work speak for itself. She begins: “Trust yourself and your skills, your brilliance will shine through if you believe in yourself.
“You don’t need to shout loudly, the quality of what you say is far more important than the way you say it.”
When it comes to issues around gender inequality, however, Plummer from Beyond Encryption argues that women should never be afraid to speak out: “Be vocal where you see injustice, especially when it doesn’t benefit you as an individual.”
Advocate for wider change
Of course, forcing change within industries goes beyond the individual. Carlyn Foster, Head of Marketing at 4D Data Centres, highlights steps that can be taken by companies on a wider scale: “Acknowledging the problem is the first step to addressing the issue.”
She continues: “The next is taking action and while there are initiatives being implemented at emphasising grassroots level education that will help encourage larger takeup levels at an earlier age, there is still more work to be done to ensure that this is an ongoing conversation within the sector and broader tech industry.”
Implementing processes that tackle issues such as unconscious bias are absolutely crucial, adds Stephanie Eltz, CEO and Co-founder of Doctify.
“As a team, we are active and ongoing in our efforts to support every employee and are always scrutinising our policies, procedures and culture for new ways in which we can attract and retain a diverse workforce. We have female leaders across the Doctify team. Our hiring managers receive training in unconscious and conscious bias.”
And, with IWD 2022’s theme of “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, Deborah Johnson, Head of Sustainability at Agilitas IT Solutions, describes how businesses can achieve this.
“Gender equality needs to be addressed in companies’ sustainability agenda in order to attain long-term success as companies with an inclusive culture are six times more likely to be innovative, and twice as likely to hit or better financial targets.”
Empowering future generations
Ultimately, International Women’s Day allows people to come together across companies and industries, celebrating achievements and recognising success – no matter how small. Giving women, and the younger generations, the space to be heard encourages all to address ongoing issues head-on, creating an equal future for generations to come.