I love the theme for 2021 International Women’s Day! #ChoosetoChallenge reminds us that there is no room for complacency. We have so much to celebrate in relation to gender parity, but let’s not forget why Kamala Harris becoming the first Black, first South Asian and first woman to take up the office of Vice President of the US is such a big deal! She has achieved what no woman has ever done before in the US, a country that believes it’s a place where all can flourish... and yet, it’s taken until 2021 for a woman to become Vice President.
Challenge is important because it brings change. Change must continue at pace because we know that the pandemic has set back gender equality globally, possibly by as much as 25 years, according to the UN. So, we need to raise awareness of bias. We need to call out discrimination. Let’s challenge gender stereotypes.
Change must continue at pace because we know that the pandemic has set back gender equality globally
But let’s celebrate too! When I look around at the extraordinary women who have influenced my life, I recognise the important impact we can have on each other. Taking time out to encourage is vital – never underestimate the importance of a thoughtful, kind and encouraging conversation.
Collaboration is another way in which we can all thrive. Collaborative leadership cherishes all points of view and seeks to hear the thoughts and ideas of even the quietest and seemingly least experienced. I am convinced that this is how we enable everyone to flourish and reach their potential.
Cynics may say – what’s the point of having a single day to focus on women (or any group)? I think the opportunity to stop and think a bit more deeply about an issue is extremely valuable. The drive to create a more inclusive world still has much to achieve, so sharpening our focus and thinking about opportunities to challenge bias and stereotyping, is vital.
I can already see that the world my two daughters are moving in has opened so many doors for women, and the hurdles that previous generations - and women in other parts of the world - face are much less evident. But all women know that the playing field is not entirely even and there is still a lot of work to do.
So – please join me in celebrating International Women’s Day! And please commit yourself to challenging gender inequality. From challenge, comes change!