Happy International Women’s Day

March 2016

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Before the morning dissection of the various bachelorettes begins, I would like to wish all of my fabulous and fortunate female colleagues a very happy International Women’s Day.

When I tell people that I work with 26 women and three men, there is usually a moment of disbelief.

Working in communications sets you up for a lifetime of female dominated workplaces, making the question of who is going to make the tea irrelevant.

Since joining the PR profession, I have never once felt myself diminished on the basis of my gender in the workplace. Our voices are strong and we feel free enough to raise them.

But despite that, I still hear and see women put themselves down and hold themselves back.

I see women who think their careers are not equal to their partners’. I see women who are not brave enough to speak their mind or to advance themselves professionally.

Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code’s Ted talk  tells us we should be teaching girls bravery not perfection.

She argues that boys are taught to play rough and swing high. By the time they get to the point in life when they need to negotiate a raise or even ask someone on a date they are habituated to take risks. In short, we are raising boys to be brave.

On the flip side she argues that we are raising girls to be perfect. Countless research has proved this to be true. Girls are often quick to give up, the bright girls even more so.

Women have been taught to aspire for perfection. Even when we’re leaning in, that strive for perfection has taught us to be less brave with our careers. Reshma’s assertion is that women need to be socialised to be brave instead of socialised to be perfect.

A report by Hewlett Packard found that men will apply for a job if they only fit 60 per cent of the criteria but women won’t unless they fit it 100 per cent.

This lack of belief in ourselves and lack of bravery is the real reason women are under-represented in c-suites. You can legislate for all women shortlists if you want, but that is not going to solve the problem. More women need to step forward and start believing that good is good enough. We need to be comfortable with imperfection.

The feminist voices in the UK and the US are loud and proud. New wave feminists such as Caitlin Moran, author of the excellent How to be a woman,  have given feminism a new voice. Elle UK Magazine  recently photographed celebrities for their ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ campaign and dedicated their December 2014 issue to empowering and empowered women.

We have a lack of strong feminist voices in NZ. Despite being the first country to give women the vote, our male voices are still louder and prouder than our female voices. We have fabulous female editors and inspiring sportswomen but do we celebrate them as much as our beloved All Blacks?

And not only do we not celebrate our women, we are often the ones responsible for criticizing them.

I came across a facebook post yesterday comparing Malala to Kylie Jenner. The point was to show us what a fantastic achievement Malala had made with her life and just how pointless Kylie Jenner was. The end point was ‘Last thing to note, Malala is infinitely more beautiful!’

Those of us in the free world have no idea how fortunate we are. Malala is indeed a courageous young woman. But we must remember that she is fighting for the very freedoms that Kylie enjoys. Judging other women will not advance us.

So Happy Woman’s Day to all the fantastic women out there doing a great job. Remember how lucky you are and remember to give nothing but love to your fellow women.

^BE