Written by Yvonne 'Nkem' Allanah
Yesterday as I ran around the office with the enthusiasm of International Women's day being celebrated the next day (which is today :-)), I couldn't help but ensure it was contagious by telling everyone that would care to listen that it was indeed a day for women tomorrow and to drive engagement from my colleagues to participate in some of the insightful sessions my organization had put together in honor of the day. Close to the end of the day, one of my colleagues finally spoke up in nothing but total honesty, she said "I don't want to be involved or participate in any of the sessions, I get to be a woman everyday" and to me this was an opportunity to make a believer out of her on the significance of the day. Before I did however, I did pause to think about her statement as these were sentiments I had had over previous years but never really voiced out. I didn't understand the difference in all the days that got to celebrate women and what to do on all the days or specifically what we should be celebrating, but this year was different.
This could possibly be due to the fact that as I came of age, I became more self aware of some of the unique challenges that women face in family, career and relationships and how to overcome to keep climbing the social or career ladder we all deal with in life
So this year, I have chosen to celebrate progress which I believe is what this day is asking us to reflect on. The progress we have made as women from when there were very limited career options made available to us from either being a housewife or maybe a secretary if you were extremely smart. We have come a long way from then to now when women who are recognized for their accomplishments in business, aerospace and medicine. The celebration of this progress is not in ignorance that there is still a lot more to be done as we try to #balancetheequation, we need to realize that as we all embrace our individuality and uniqueness in going after what we want and demanding for it in times when it isn't handed to us- it rarely is to be honest
I started my career in operations a little over 2 years ago and went through 3 roles without ever having a female manager until very recently in my current role where I have a female boss and I didn't know what to expect. This wasn't because she was female but possibly because my opinions may have been slightly biased by people describing her as tough and interesting and now in retrospect, I realize she wouldn't have been described that way if she was male. However, working with her closely over the past couple of months has been such a huge learning experience as she has taught me to embrace my uniqueness but also inspired me to go after things I may have hesitated in the past about, in my career. She has shown me that you can be bossy, warm, confident and introverted. Also, she being only a few years older than me makes the experience even more fun as you can imagine.
In the realization of what needs to be done to empower more women to get an education, start that business or go after that job that seems unattainable, I think about the fact that we need to continue to build a support system to make this happen. A support system of trust that embraces equity in ways that recognize that there isn't a fair playing ground for both men and women in society. We are judged by different standards. The equity that comes from recognizing this without providing "special treatment" but ensuring that within our spheres of influence, in our little way we are providing equal opportunities for both sexes to step up to the plate and sit at the table.
Women may not be able to have it all both at home and in the work place but we can sure try as we evaluate what sacrifices are appropriate at different times in our lives. My mum has been the perfect example of this in my life, from a very early age, she taught me how to be hardworking, confident and take charge. By the time I was 14, I had watched her be a stay at home mum and then switch to being a serial entrepreneur, starting up and managing about 3 different business and now currently managing 2 very distinct Supply Chain businesses. I would love to know what her answer would be to the question, "Can a woman have it all?" because I feel she has done a phenomenal job in managing her home and business
So here a few things I would like everyone reading this to keep top of mind as I go through today
1. Women are awesome, we should be celebrated every day, like my colleague says
2. Embrace your duality, you can be anything you want to be without changing what makes you unique. So if you are warm, stay warm with a touch of sass as you kick ass in the boardroom, kitchen or Manufacturing or Repair Shop floor ( for my STEM ladies)
3. Find the right people to be surrounded by and pay it forward by being the right kind of person for other women to surround themselves with.
So how did I get my colleague to participate? I am not sure I did I guess we would have to wait till the day is over to see :-)
Happy International Women's Day! #IWD2017