With 25 years as a female manager in an industry which is largely made up of women, yet in many cases has more men in top positions, I think I can call myself a bit of an expert on women in the workforce. And today on International Women’s Day I want to shout out to all the women who have been paving the way for others in the workforce, defying stereotypes and rejecting societal expectations. Women that have actively chosen to put themselves first, and make a career for themselves.
Throughout the industry, I see ambitious young women, working hard and making a difference. And it fills me with pride and joy.
A lot has changed for women over the past 25 years. Staying at home with the kids was one of the core options from women when I joined the workforce. Nowadays, however, that is no longer the norm, at least not in Europe. Women are able to easily return to work after having kids and pick up where they left off. There are more options and flexibility which allows women to be a mother and a professional, we don’t have to choose between the two anymore.
And it isn’t just a matter of identity and personal ambition, this flexibility means that women can be financially independent – a crucial factor in the fight for equality. In the working world, it’s up to us leaders to ensure that women have the tools they need to be able to stand on their own two feet and gain financial independence. As long as they are limited or held back, they will have to hold their hand up to a man. And that is not equality.
Of course, equality requires change. And change requires discussion, education, and understanding. Leaders need to continue challenging the way things are done, and be brave enough to make decisions that might seem bold at first, but will ultimately make for a fair and better team.
At LEWIS, we’re proud that the number of women in leadership positions at LEWIS outweighs the men. I can hand on heart say that in the business I work in, being a man or a woman makes no difference from a career point of view. Our strong leadership team, filled with talented and intelligent women, also reflects the balance of our workforce, meaning we have a fair representation.
Across European society, and within LEWIS, there are many great achievements that we have accomplished in a relatively short space of time. True equality is becoming a reality, and I can only applaud it.
I think we are very lucky in Europe to have come this far in the emancipation of women. However, I am also very conscious that this is a fairly unique situation worldwide. Unfortunately in many countries, women don’t have equal opportunities or even equal rights. They are denied an education and face a great deal of discrimination, ruining their chances for a career and independence.
That is why today on international women’s day, I encourage all women (and men) in the privileged first world countries to make a donation to the Malala fund for the education of young women. The Malala Fund is an inspirational charity that is breaking down the barriers which are preventing more than 130 million girls around the world from going to school. Malala is fighting to give back to girls what poverty, war and discrimination tried to take away. So, join me and donate today to help us give all girls the opportunity to learn and lead and become financially independent too.