8th March 2020 marks International Women's Day, a time to celebrate women's achievements while continuing the fight for gender equality.
Here at Mention Me, we're lucky enough to count many impressive women as Mentioneers. While we firmly believe in celebrating them often, not just one day a year, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to promote their voices and learn how we can better empower one another. So we asked four female colleagues about the impact of Covid-19, women in power, and their advice for others. Here's what they said.
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
"It’s a great chance to celebrate and highlight the amazing achievements of women around the world and throughout history, while reminding ourselves there's still work to be done to level the playing field. It's also an opportunity to discuss equality, diversity and inclusion and how we can do better." Natalie, Head of Sales
"For me, International Women's Day is about celebrating all the incredible women in my life, the women who have had an impact, and the women who work every day to improve the world we live in. It's also a day to reflect and remind ourselves to support, motivate and inspire those around us, regardless of gender." Abi, Director of Client
"It’s a day where we can reflect on what it means to be a woman and the amazing things that women have and continue to achieve. It’s also about looking at what still needs to be done and how we can get there." Ruth, Senior Onboarding Project Manager
"For me, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the positive changes towards achieving equality. It's also a chance to celebrate the power of women and an opportunity to discuss further improvements." Monique, People & Talent Advisor"The best thing you can do is get educated and make changes that help to turn the tide." Ruth Foster, Senior Onboarding Manager
This year’s theme is "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world". How do you think we can achieve this?
"There’s a lot to unpack in this year’s topic. Firstly, there have been so many great moments for female leaders this past year, most notably Kamala Harris as the first female vice president of United States and Emily Wolfe Herd as the world's youngest female self-made billionaire. There are so many more women in leadership now compared to when I was growing up. It's hugely inspiring.
There's also a bigger focus of women in leadership worldwide. The majority of the countries that have most successfully responded to the pandemic and its broader socio-economic impacts are headed by women. Yet only 20 of 195 countries have female leaders.
To make real change, we need to look beyond the good. Covid risks regressing the fight for equality back 25 years. Since the start of the crisis, women are 47% more likely to have lost their job and 14% more likely to have been furloughed. Women make up the majority of caregivers in the UK, are at increased risk of infection and loss of livelihood, and existing trends point to less access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as a rise in domestic violence during the crisis.
These are big topics to tackle, but we can start with small changes like acknowledging the ‘silent work’ that women do on top of their jobs. Get behind proper flexible working (check out ‘Flex Appeal’). The best thing you can do is get educated, read about how women have been impacted, and make changes where you have the power to do so. It's these changes that will turn the tide." Ruth, Senior Onboarding Project Manager
"It's still very rare to see women in leadership positions. Companies need to put Diversity and Inclusion at the forefront of their priorities if we truly want to make a difference. Covid-19 has hit mothers and children the worst. Personally, I know so many mothers that have had to take furlough just to look after their children. I recently saw an article in the Guardian that claimed women are being singled out for redundancies, and based on the women in my HR group, there are more women looking for jobs after redundancies than men. We still have a long way to go." Monique, People & Talent Advisor
"Covid-19 has had a hugely negative impact on women. The industries most impacted are overrepresented by women. Working mums have had to balance childcare, home-schooling, and still managing the 9-5, or even having to give up their roles and careers to support their families. I have found the last 12 months tough enough. It takes so much strength to power through the past year working in an industry impacted by Covid, and managing to support a family. I count myself lucky that I have not been in that position. For me, this year has shone a light on how much more we need to do to achieve an equal future. We've come a long way but there are some basics we need to get right: transparency on salaries, maternity and paternity leave, more flexible working... to name just a few." Abi, Director of Client"Never be afraid to show you're ambitious." Natalie Barrie, Head of Sales
Which women inspire you? Why?
"I feel lucky to have learned from so many great women throughout my life. Women in my family, the women who have taught me, the women who've mentored me, the women who are my peers, who inspire me. Outside of those who have had a direct impact on my life, there have been others who I find completely inspirational. More recently, Professor Sarah Gilbert, a leader at the top of her field who developed the vaccine that is instrumental in the world going back to normality. And Amanda Gorman – her poem at the inauguration gave me goosebumps. She summed up so much feeling and focussed on hope for the future, something we all need right now." Abi, Director of Client
"Karren Brady and Holly Tucker. I listened to Karren’s keynote at a Women in Technology conference last year and was blown away by how inspiring she was when it comes to championing women in business. It’s especially impressive to hear how she built up respect and helped to change the male-dominated culture of football for the better as MD of Birmingham City Football Club aged just 23! She's a force to be reckoned with.
As founder of Notonthehighstreet and Holly & Co, Holly Tucker is an expert in helping small businesses find success. In 2018, she started her podcast ‘Conversations of Inspiration’, where she chats to founders and entrepreneurs of some of the UK’s most successful small businesses to understand their career highs and lows and how they succeeded. I love listening to their journeys and hearing what it takes to get to the top. The stories are always so inspiring and very emotional. I'd highly recommend having a listen." Natalie, Head of Sales
"Rihanna, Michelle Obama, Viola Davis and Melissa Wardrobe (Instagram influencer). All great women who came from nothing to become EVERYTHING." Monique, People & Talent Advisor
"The women who first inspired me were my mum and my senior school headteacher, Mrs Tuck. My mum raised me and my three siblings equally – there were no limits to what me and my sister could do. Mrs Tuck taught me what women can achieve and how nothing is impossible. It was during my teenage years that she showed me and my friends that being a feminist wasn’t a bad thing and that the world is open to us, even if we have to fight to get to where we want to be. From the books she recommended to the stories told, everything I learned from Mrs Tuck was a foundation to where I am now and what I continue to learn." Ruth, Senior Onboarding Project Manager
"I worked really hard to get to where I am today. This is just the beginning." Monique Bailey, People & Talent Advisor
How did you get to your role today? Where do you want to go next?
"I worked really hard to get where I am today, and I know this is only the beginning. Being a black woman in the corporate world is a battle in itself but I won't be giving up any time soon! I hope my next move will be specialising in a particular area in HR." Monique, People & Talent Advisor
"Where I want to go next… ’world domination’! I want to focus on lifting women up while educating on and promoting women’s rights. It’s so important to me that we work towards equality and I want to make sure that remains a big part of my life and work." Ruth, Senior Onboarding Project Manager
Which taboos relating to women do you wish were broken?
"That ambitious and driven women are ruthless or selfish. You should never be afraid to show that you’re ambitious." Natalie, Head of Sales
"Clothing, maternity leave, equal pay, rape (no one is ever ‘asking for it’), domestic violence, revenge porn, women in positions of power… there are still SO many, I can’t just list a few." Ruth, Senior Onboarding Project Manager
"Be the CEO of your own career." Abi Wendt, Director of Client
What advice would you give to other working women?
"Don’t give up. Sometimes as women we have to fight a little harder for our voices to be heard but that doesn't mean we should be silent. Get the life you deserve." Monique, People & Talent Advisor
"Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you don’t champion your career, no one else will." Natalie, Head of Sales
"Support the women around you. Speak up if you see something wrong or sexist. Oh, and everyone should read Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman and Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. This book changed how I view things I used to take for granted." Ruth, Senior Onboarding Project Manager
"Not just advice for women but for everyone: be the CEO of your own career. You're the primary decision-maker in your career. Know your value and invest in yourself, understand your strengths and play to them, and take ownership over developing skills." Abi, Director of Client