To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we’ve been getting to know our female community of friends and clients a little better. We asked them what this year’s theme meant to them, how we as women can better support each other and to share their words of wisdom. At edge, we’re big believers in sharing knowledge so that we can learn from and inspire each other, and our amazing friends were nothing but generous, sharing with us their experiences, achievements and insight.
Choose to Challenge
“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.” IWD 2021
This year’s ‘Choose to Challenge’ theme had two very clear meanings for our community – to continue to challenge perceived wisdoms and stereotypes in order to create change and the need to continue challenging ourselves to be better, do better and improve the world around us. Our friend and business coach Julie Williams told us: “For me ‘Choose to Challenge’ means speaking up. When we notice that there is inequality at play, whether that is in the workplace or in the mind of someone we are talking to, then it’s our duty to speak up. We can’t just sit back and think, ‘well this doesn’t affect me.’”
This sentiment was also shared by our very own Hannah Smart, who’s experiences with lack of diversity and a reluctance within the industry to accept change were one of the key drivers for starting edge: “Around 3 years ago, I found myself in a place where I was increasingly aware that I was working in a very male dominated industry and I chose to stand up – literally with a microphone, after a few glasses of fizz in front of 300 people (of which around 30 were women) and speak out about the lack of females in our industry. A lack of reluctance to accept or embrace change is my driver to continue to choose change and I purposefully set out to be a disruptor in life to counterbalance this.”
The ‘Choose to Challenge’ theme for most was an opportunity for self-reflection – by thinking about how we can challenge ourselves on a personal and professional level, empowers us to then collectively challenge each other and help move our society to a more equal place. Jayne Norris, Director at Edgar’s, summed it up perfectly, “without challenge there’s no change – no change, no growth.”
When we asked what our community considered to be the most important challenge facing women today, the message was clear: traditional gender roles and the balance of responsibilities. Eleana Orr from PlanitIE told us told us: “instead of feeling uncertain about the juggles of motherhood and how much the woman has to sacrifice, I would love to feel empowered and believe that there was a way to be a mother with a prosperous career.” The pressure that women feel ‘to do it all’ has been felt by all of us at some point, but never more so than during Covid times. Julie rightly pointed out that “women are still expected to take up the caregiving roles. We have gone backwards during the pandemic where women have been expected to assume the domestic and home-schooling roles,” – with many doing both alongside working from home. It’s clear that the issue of equality doesn’t just affect the workplace, with many feeling the need to question the traditional gender roles within the home. “I think there is still a bit of work to do to balance out some of the responsibilities and break down perceptions,” says Annaliese Walker, Senior Landscape Consultant at Tyler Grange. Bee Heller, founding partner of ‘cultural engineers’ The Pioneers, hit the nail on the head, telling us: “we need to increase the diversity of narratives out there in the world about the different lives women can lead.”
As the saying goes, we are our own worst critic. Nobody judges us as harshly as we judge ourselves and when asked what they considered to be the biggest obstacle on their journey so far, pretty much every one of our female friends and colleagues pointed the finger at themselves. Self-doubt, worry, confidence, accepting help – all things that were identified as being stumbling blocks at one time or another. Annaliese told us: “I believe that confidence has a huge part to play. It tends to be one of the major barriers people face. To have the bravery to get things wrong or take a leap of faith with no net occasionally, is really the place that I have learnt the most;” something edge’s own Sarah Murray agrees with: “it is important be tenacious and pick ourselves up after a knock back. Learning from our mistakes paves the way to becoming our best selves. As individuals, and together as a team, we can then feel empowered to achieve anything and everything.”
Supporting each other and championing our community is at the heart of what we do at edge, and in the face of so many ongoing challenges, it’s never been more important to collaborate and be supportive of those around you. “By speaking to other women and encouraging them to be kind, open and share ideas will not only make ourselves stronger but all women,” says Suki Deol, founder of Forte HR Consulting. Founder of Clare Nash Architecture, Clare highlighted that “women provide fantastic support and encouragement to each other” and it’s something we need to continue in order to have the confidence to overcome our obstacles, as well as in our quest for a more equal and diverse world. Lynn Basford, Managing Director at BasfordPowers told us that “women need to continue to believe in themselves, have confidence and support and congratulate each other on their successes – small or large.” Bee Heller summed this idea up beautifully, telling us that “we need to share our stories to inspire each other. There’s far more richness and nuance to our personal stories than the typical stereotypes reveal. The more we share our stories, the more we encourage each other not to see binary choices but rather multiple, flexible and winding paths that we can pursue through life.” We couldn’t agree more!
We are absolutely humbled to have so many influential, thoughtful, empowered and empowering women within our own business and our wider circle of friends and we look forward to working together with these amazing women (and men) to continue to collaborate and create positive change for future generations and our own teams. Thank you to all of our wonderful friends for sharing your wisdom and insight!