For many of us right now, the future is uncertain. Markets are crashing, businesses are closing and there is a great deal of (understandable) negativity.
And whilst I don’t wish to underestimate the gravitas of the global situation, over the weekend I found a little ray of hope in my corner of the world. In Brighton, Platf9rm (‘Platform 9’) hosted their second ‘Kickass Women’ event for International Women’s Day.
Although it took a while for the sun to break through Brighton’s grey, rainy clouds the atmosphere in the building was sunny from the offset. And much like the virus du jour, the feeling in the room was infectious.
Despite a few empty seats, the day was full to the brim of inspirational speakers exploring the future of womanhood and the IWD theme #eachforequal.
As varied as the speakers’ career journeys were the industries they work in. We had talks from the Head of Communications at Brandwatch, Head of Cities at Uber, Founder of The Coven Girl Gang, the author of Running Like a Girl, Founder and CEO of HEY GIRL Magazine, workshops from a financial coach and life coach, a magical performance from a spoken word artist and poet and a panel discussion and question time from entrepreneurs and mentors.
In case you’re not, here it is:
Women in work are often criticised for being too bossy, told we mustn’t ask for more money and to tread carefully around conversations of childcare. Leading women and men from different fields of work shared their stories of navigating work and motherhood, being assertive in a male-dominated world and envisaging how the future workplace might look.
Vic at Brandwatch recommended a ‘positive rebellion’; to bring about change in a positive way by challenging female stereotypes. Ask loads of questions, leave space for the answers, help provide the answers, recognise the roles we play, sense-check with our trusted network and call out bad language that is derogatory or enhances negative stereotypes. Even if we don’t get the answers ourselves, by asking questions and encouraging answers, we’re adding to the conversation – particularly when it comes to salaries. And whilst we should (if we can) facilitate colleagues in need, there is much more value in building colleagues up as opposed to doing their work for them under the guise of ‘helping’.
Through an interesting and unconventional route (!) to working for Uber, Eugenie told us that she’s learnt the importance of finding out our values and acknowledging our allies. Sometimes we find a manager we work for has values that perfectly align with our own and this can make for a much easier time at work. In other jobs, we may have differing viewpoints and values and whilst this can bring about change, it can diminish our reserves. During these times, it can be worth finding people who think like us in order to rebuild our mental resources and then re-enter the group in which we feel like an outlier, but this time with renewed confidence and energy. By positioning ourselves with others who don’t think like us, we can develop our empathy and we might expand our professional lexicon.
‘If we only focus on our weaknesses, we will only be mediocre,’ was Eugenie’s caveat. By improving our shortcomings, we might be making ourselves more well-rounded, but we do need to celebrate and enhance our strengths.
Eugenie’s key advice was to make things happen that matter. For some, this will translate into helping fight climate change, reduce poverty (any of the 17 SDGs) but she encouraged us to find work that makes us happy and gives us a purpose. (See my post on changing careers here.) All jobs have their ups and downs but by finding a career we feel passionate about, work can feel a lot less like work.
All of the speakers seemed adept at leading, but the message was about finding a role that we enjoy and being confident to request workplace change, where necessary. Stacey supported us in having conversations about money; to be financial role-models and know our worth. She reminded us to acknowledge the stories we tell ourselves about money and notice when they are holding us back in becoming financially confident women. Through action planning, we all came away with some pointers of how we can develop into equity role-models for ourselves, our friends and our children.
Unequal pay was mentioned, but not laboured upon, as it was a day of celebration. And although equal pay is unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, the future female workplace looks good. We’re forging our own paths, campaigning for change and making a positive impact.