Stop playing by the rules on International Women’s Day

Stop playing by the rules on International Women’s Day

As a woman working in the creative tech industry, I have mixed feelings about International Women’s Day.

On one hand, it serves as a positive platform to shout about women’s achievements and enhance visibility. However, on the other hand, it sometimes feels like the issues of gender equality and inclusion are at risk of becoming just another industry buzzword. Another once-a-year, novelty occasion that provides brands with an easy way to join the parade and be seen as “doing their part”.

Instead, we must enable and push consistent and long-lasting change on an infrastructural level throughout the creative tech industry - and society as a whole. In my opinion, there are numerous things the industry could and should be doing to ‘inspire inclusion’ - the theme of this year’s IWD - and support women in their careers.

How to inspire inclusion in the industry

Let’s start by giving women a real seat at the table, or building tables for them specifically. 

I know I am not reinventing the wheel here, and allocating gender-based quotas might seem controversial to some, but if the female leadership and presence aren’t there in the first place, a company’s inclusion efforts will often add up to little more than performative workshops, articles or “pledges”. Representation indeed matters. The experience of learning under a female leader has been unparallelled and further emphasises the power of empathy and understanding in female leadership.

Secondly, pay women more. 

The persistence of the gender pay gap is truly shameful and it’s time for action. Progressive firms should look to establish funded mentoring initiatives for female staff and to provide upskilling opportunities in a variety of soft and hard skills, e.g. from coding and strategy, to negotiating pay and dispute management

Thirdly: educate, at all levels, in all environments. 

We’re living in a time where Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z are all crossing over in the same spaces. Values relating to inclusivity and diversity inherently vary due to each generation’s exposure to education and other social factors. Some people need to learn how to treat women fairly, including those with unconscious bias. Take every opportunity to educate whether that is at home, at school, or work. Little will change until the underlying rhetoric does.

Free your mind

I would also encourage women to make a shift in their own thinking. To be less cautious, take more risks and don’t be afraid of taking a non-linear path to find out where they truly want to be. The truth is that the technology space is constantly evolving and the roles within it change at an incredible rate. In that context, there’s little value in aiming for a specific role or company over the longer term. A much better approach is to concentrate on building your skill sets, gaining experience and generally just leaning into the subjects that you’re actually interested in.

I believe that, whatever your gender, the real value you bring to the table professionally is who you are as a person - which means your mindset, your vision and your experience, in and out of work. It’s about attitude and drive above everything else.

My advice to women entering the industry for the first time? Don’t play by the rules, don’t take no for an answer, listen to your gut and use your voice. 

Life is so much bigger than work - never be afraid to take a leap of faith, even if the risk of failure is high. Be brave enough to walk away from anything that does not serve you, and be true to yourself throughout everything. We’re all just figuring it out. Your happiness and self-alignment will be the key to true growth and change.

Across my career, I’ve built up my own network of tenacious and bold women who have navigated male bias across all industries - from creative, to policy, to banking and consultancy. It’s so inspiring to watch my friends and connections strive every day to show up for themselves a little better - and we try to uplift each other and those around us through this. I have learned so much through my friends’ experiences and what they’ve learned in real-life challenges. We’re all giving each other a leg up where we can and that’s how we’re going to move the needle from the inside.

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