By Erica Wolfe-Murray
I love International Women’s Day for more reasons than I can mention…
It highlights both the wonderful things women do, but also reflects how hard life is for many women in societies across the globe clearly reminding us, the lucky ones, just how much there is still to do.
IWD gives everyone a focus to face those truths of inequality, violence towards women in all our societies, gender imbalance in countries that should know better. It allows us to see how far we’ve come and, rather depressingly, how far we have yet to go.
In my work with small and micro companies, I see women striving to build businesses that give them independence, a sense of purpose and value, an ability to determine their own futures, a flexibility of approach, as well as an income to support them and their children. Often these women have left the big corporate worlds. The straight-jacketed system and way of working didn’t suit them. They’d had enough of being patronised and talked over, or being paid less than the man at the same grade, or having their ideas and opinions seized upon and owned by someone else. Or of not having the value of their hard work recognised.
And it is these women who, like me, welcome International Women’s Day. It is a celebration of them but also an opportunity to support other women who are facing difficulties in their workplace. It is a day when we should each ask ourselves ‘who can I mentor, advise, help, nurture and give courage to’ whether they are ready to launch or are deeply nervous of taking the plunge to go it alone.
In an interview with the Guardian to mark IWD, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, talks about how hard it is for many women and how we have to support them. She has made female empowerment a key goal for the IMF under her watch since 2011. Their research suggests that banks are more stable if there are women on the board… risks are lessened and their capital buffers are greater. The research has gone on to show that gender equality and more women in the workplace bring new skills, boost productivity as well as expanding the workforce.
And she quotes an extraordinary supposition… in countries ranked in the bottom 50 per cent for gender equality, bringing more women into the working world could increase the size of their economies by 35 per cent on average.
Women working at a fair rate, being treated with respect is good for everyone. The IMF says so.
I encourage you to embrace International Women’s Day, contribute to the year-long #BalanceForBetter theme which looks to bring parity with men on every work front. It’s not just about cheering on one day as we delight in many of the women’s achievements that we see lauded in the press… it’s about supporting small women-led ventures where ever you come across them, helping them further on their way.
A London-based PR company created a map of their local area asking staff to pin the names, addresses and services offered of local women-led businesses everyone in the company could support. They are then hoping to roll it out to other areas. Could your company do something similar?
Whether it is International Women’s Day or the remaining 364 days in the year – remember that Christine Lagarde is leading the International Monetary Fund on #BalanceForBetter at the top, so how can we thread this through our business lives with our somewhat lower profiles to ensure that we encourage more women to join our ranks to create a fairer, kinder, richer working environment?
We owe it to those who will follow us to smooth their path just a little bit more every day, every year.
Happy International Women’s Day to you.
About the author
Erica Wolfe-Murray is a force to be reckoned with. Dubbed by national media and clients as the ‘Delia’ of business she is renowned for her smart and savvy approach to innovation and problem solving. With over four decades of experience she is the UK’s leading business and innovation expert and has worked with over 250 companies to date.
Erica’s new book ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business’ is out now. Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business and developing greater commercial resilience – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business. Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.