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Thought Leadership 08 March 2021

What do you #Choosetochallenge this International Women’s Day?

After a year that has shaken up the world in bigger ways than we ever could have imagined, now is the time to call for change; to challenge the world we lived in before the pandemic and create opportunities for positive growth. This International Women’s Day (March 8), we hope to inspire you to #choosetochallenge the status quo and create a world where women can lean in, lead, and lift up other women with conviction and pride. Here are just some of our tips for the changes we can all make, as businesses, teams, leaders, and individuals:

Choose to challenge limiting beliefs – be bold

Imposter syndrome is real. While women certainly do not lack ability, we can at times lack confidence and belief in the power of our own voice. Self-censorship is a huge issue, and it stops women from trusting their instincts and speaking up when they should. However, if there was ever a time to be bold and to use our voice, it’s now.

We all have the power to switch up our self-talk. Most of us will be well acquainted with an inner critic that can sometimes be difficult to tune out. But while we may not be able to quiet self-limiting beliefs completely, we can turn down the volume and not let them go unchecked. Because we’re all capable of whatever we put our minds to, and sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of that.

If there’s one thing we owe to ourselves in 2021 it’s to be that little bit braver, because if we want to help other women step up, then we have to step up for ourselves too. Our gifts and talents are already inside all of us, we just have to have the courage to show them to the world.

Choose to challenge leadership stereotypes – be authentic

Hands up if you’ve ever felt under pressure to change your leadership style because of a certain set of expectations? Leaders should be assertive, ‘unemotional’, impersonal; words that can, at times, feel gender stereotyped and limiting. However, what we should really be asking ourselves is: are we leading in a way that’s authentic and that embraces our innate strengths as women?

What we’ve seen throughout the pandemic is an appreciation of different types of leadership; with women leaders and female front-line workers having the opportunity to step up and be heard. Positive examples of honest, empathetic leadership, and an appreciation for compassionate styles of communication are a couple of examples of this. During times of crisis, there’s no time for fakery or for being someone we are not; and inspiring women leaders guiding us through one of the most difficult times have proven the benefits of this. We can be a leader and be ourselves, too.

Another big part of that is vulnerability. We expect a lot from our leaders, and if we’re in a leadership role perhaps we put pressure on ourselves to show up well each day. However, if we never let our guard down, we never create that opportunity to really connect as humans. Whether it’s being more honest, saying ‘I don’t know’, or sharing and discussing mistakes and failures that everyone can learn from, being vulnerable as a leader can have a huge impact.

It’s important to challenge what we think great leadership really looks like; it can be kind, empathetic, and introspective, as well as all the other great things we know and expect from leaders. We don’t have to change who we are, but if we can lean into a style of leadership that people respond to, that’s how we enable success.

Choose to challenge blockers to inclusivity – be aware

We all know that the pandemic hasn’t treated us all the same. But while we’ve all had different experiences of the past few months, research shows that women have been disproportionately impacted, both in terms of jobs losses and in the amount of unpaid care work falling to them.

It’s been tough: there’s been the challenges of home schooling for months on end. There’s been an increased need for flexible working and a shift away from the rigidity of 9-5. Children and family life have also been much more visible in our working lives in a way they hadn’t been before. But do we push to go back to normal once we’re back in offices – or do we embrace flexible ways of working?

We live in a world where women can be disempowered at work simply because they work part-time or have to leave on time to pick up their children. So, we have a choice to make in how we really make our teams truly inclusive places to be – for everyone. We can choose to be inflexible and fixed on presenteeism, or we can choose to address what’s blocking people from being their best.

Compassion is a big part of building inclusive teams. Deciding to be supportive, to be an advocate, and to actively enable success – this is what we all need to be doing to support women right now, and in the future. That’s how we build trusted, inclusive and high performing teams.

Choose to challenge organisational culture – be part of the change

We may think that changing organisational culture is too big an ask. We may find ourselves thinking: we’re just a tiny cog in a huge wheel… how much of an impact can we really have? It’s time to rewrite that script. Organisational change doesn’t have to come from the top. It doesn’t have to be broad strokes or business-wide initiatives rolled out over the whole of the organisation – although, of course, those things matter too. Changes can be small but impactful.

So what are some examples of the changes you could make right now? It could be simply echoing the female voices in your meetings in order to amplify them and get them heard, because, unfortunately, that’s still needed. It could be challenging any gendered statements or assumptions that you hear at work – however insignificant they may appear. It could also be simply sharing a little bit more of ourselves, our vulnerabilities and our life outside of work, in the hope that encourages others to open up too. Because, in 2021, everyone should be able to bring their whole self to work.

When we’re part of a company, we all play a part in shaping its organisational culture. We all matter, because it shouldn’t ever be a rigid or immovable thing – it should always be continually evolving and adjusting. And each of us have a role in building a culture that we can all be proud of.

Finally, in addition to #choosingtochallenge the things that we can all change – we are also #choosingtochampion the women we admire and who have supported, empowered or helped guide us through one of the toughest years. From the women leaders managing crisis admirably across the world to healthcare workers keeping us afloat, to the mothers, the friends and the colleagues who have juggled enormous pressures, we #choosetochampion all you women who have helped guide and get us through!

Who do you #choosetochampion this year? Let us know at our social media channels @Insights

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