Did you know that we are still 170 years away from the world being a level playing field for men and women? Our girls, our funny, quirky, spirited girls, can expect much the same as we can in terms of personal safety, career advancement and representation – unless we can all commit to doing one small (but terrifying) thing.
Today is International Women’s Day 2017 and the theme is “Be Bold For Change”.
What does it mean to be bold? It’s not telling a joke at a dinner party or volunteering to do the Macarena on your family holiday (although those things definitely have their place). Being bold is about putting yourself first and forward, about blowing your own trumpet and raising your hand for that promotion. I don’t need to tell you that women are notoriously bad at this kind of thing because you know. You live it. I do too – I am an A-grade with Honours underseller-of-the-self. But everyone likes me and that makes it okay, right? Wrong.
Why is it so damn hard for we women to speak up for ourselves? Reshma Saujani, who started a business that teaches girls and young women how to write code, says its because we teach boys to be brave, but girls are conditioned from Day 1 not to take risks. She says we are socialised to be perfectionists. Our mother’s mothers did it to them, our mums do it to us and we, if we’re not careful, pass it on to our daughters.
An example from the coding classroom, taken from Reshma’s wonderful 10-minute TED talk: a teacher approaches a girl student’s computer and sees a blank page. Has the girl been sitting there for 20 minutes doing nothing? If the teacher hits “undo” she will most likely find the girl wrote a code, then deleted it because it didn’t work. She would rather have a blank page than a bunch of code that doesn’t work. “Perfection or bust.”
As someone who struggles with perfectionism, I can totally relate to this. Actually, I would probably just skip the class because “my brain doesn’t work that way”.
These limiting beliefs that we carry – yes we, no one forces us to believe this things about ourselves – permeate our entire lives. From the people we chose to be with to the careers we take on. Another example from the video – a study showed that men will apply for a job when they have 60 per cent of the criteria listed in the job ad. Most women will only apply if they meet 100 per cent of the selection criteria. Sound familiar?
So how do we #BeBoldforChange this International Women’s Day?
Ladies, we gotta step up. And because we’re too uncomfortable to do it for ourselves, we can at least commit to doing it for our daughters. For their sake (and as education for our sons) we need to be seen to take risks. We have to fail but, more importantly, we have to show that we can pick ourselves up and try again.
You don’t have to be CEO of an international company – or even want to – but we do have to reach for those “stretch” jobs and dream bigger than we currently believe we are allowed to. In this video for IWD, a female boss explains that she always asks women to work exactly what they are ready for. Maybe you do want to be a CEO one day but, right now, you’re only ready to manage a small team. Reach for that goal.
To be bold, we need to learn to speak out if things aren’t right. “Letting something go” may keep the peace but it implies to our daughters (and sons) that what is happening is okay.
Margie Warrell, author ofAny time you tip toe around an awkward conversation, allow someone treat you poorly, avoid taking a risk for fear of failure or let other people’s opinions matter more than your own, you’re missing an important opportunity to teach your daughter how to be brave.”
For heaps of ideas on how to be bold and take action for women around the world, see the International Women’s Day website. Some of my favourites are: question the lack of female representation in the media, pull people up on gender-exclusive language, celebrate the achievements of women and remind your children that girls can do anything. And, if your workplace can’t be flexible and accommodate you as a parent, think about finding somewhere that values you more.
What does being bold mean to you? And do you dare share the boldest thing you’ve ever done? Go on!