This international women’s day is all about choosing to challenge and this really struck a chord with me in terms of my business and my personal life. In many ways, women do have to choose to challenge and unfortunately one of the many impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic has been to set back equality by some way.
This week we were told that research conducted by Scottish Widows shows that today women saving for their pensions will need to work 40 years more than their male counterparts just to get the same pension – due to taking time out for children, working part time, and earning less. In addition, women, who make up most of the UK’s key workers, especially in schools, hospitals and care homes, face job insecurity as well as low pay. Last week’s pay award for NHS workers actually amounted to a pay cut in real terms, and social care workers are still expected to survive on less than a real living wage. These facts shock me; I cannot understand that in 2021, some 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was introduced, women still face such significant pay inequalities.
Over and above this, some women have also had to face an increase in domestic violence as they are now trapped in the home with their abusers and cut off from their support networks. The Government’s recent report into workplace support for victims of domestic abuse, launched last year, has led to ACAS updating its Guidance on Working from Home during the coronavirus pandemic to include a section on domestic violence and abuse.
I am saddened to think that women today have to choose to challenge at all. Why can’t we all learn to encourage one another, build one another up, and listen to each other’s points of view respectfully rather than having to “choose’ to challenge.
As we end this week with Mother’s Day, I have been reflecting on what an enormous influence my Mum was in showing me the way to “choose to challenge”. She was independent, hardworking, practical and, whilst she never “went” to work, she worked hard supporting Dad and the work on the farm, turning her hand to anything needed including tractor driving! It all just worked well with her at the helm which I’ve no doubt she was!
I wonder, on a business level, what Mum would have advised me to do. I can see many of my traits which come from Mum particularly my pragmatism and problem solving skills which you definitely need in business, and in HR in particular.
Unfortunately, Mum passed away soon after I started my own business and so I haven’t been able to share with her the highs and lows of my successes. I would have loved to have shared with Mum these achievements such as winning new clients, learning new skills, developing a podcast series, as well as the difficulties of not making any profit in the early days, and the challenges that some business contracts bring. She was a wonderful Mum and she continues to be an inspiration to me - I want to continue to emulate her love and kindness in all I do – work and personal.
So, have I had to choose to challenge? Most definitely. I have had to challenge myself to be self-employed, to become a mentor, to become President of St Andrews Business Club and to do public speaking. In business, you do need to push yourself out of your comfort zone every day.
So, what about young women today? I wonder what sort of business world they will encounter. I really hope that they will be able to enjoy a professional, respectful, dignified world and workplace, where they can choose to challenge … or not. Hopefully they won’t need to, and they will be selected and promoted on merit; men will take on more responsibilities in family life, and potentially they will be the ones who are disadvantaged when they collect their pensions because they have chosen to challenge the norm and taken time off to spend with their families.
Choosing to challenge, to push myself and to push at barriers, as well as encouraging younger women to grow in business, will all continue to be a passion of mine. I am not sure I’ve done a great job so far but there is time yet and I am determined to do what I can to enable other women around me to believe in themselves and develop themselves to become whatever they want to be.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.