Reach out to a woman and keep it simple

Reach out to a woman and keep it simple

Our inboxes get even more out-of-control around International Women’s Day.

We get dozens and dozens of press releases regarding new reports, new initiatives, new businesses and even from PR people pitching businesswomen to put forward for profiling, ‘Because it’s International Women’s Day!’ (Can they not be profiled on other days?)

Every year we scratch our heads wondering what to do with March the 8th, if we do anything at all.

How do we really acknowledge this day? How do we express the magnitude of what it means? How do we celebrate it? Should be celebrate it?

And after thinking it through, our team inevitably lands on something pretty unremarkable: Let’s just keeping doing what we’re doing.

That’s because it’s exhausting and even a little bit frustrating given the sheer volume of information that starts coming through, and the fact little’s actually changing from year to year, no matter how much we “press for progress” or “be bold for change”. Especially when it comes to some key metrics: including the gender pay gap, the number of women on boards and, tragically, the rate of women being killed by a current or former partner.

As such, there’s a good reason why Georgie Dent last week wrote a piece explaining why she hates (yes hates!) International Women’s Day. Big, bold language. But she makes some very good points.

Then there are the events. So many events packed into the one week! It’s great to see so many amazing opportunities for women — but of course there’s always the issue of price, and location and being able to find the time to attend such events. I’ve heard of women feeling left out because they can’t afford the time, or they don’t have the childcare or the money to attend such events — or they simply can’t justify a trip and the lost sleep into the CBD, where most of them are held.

And despite these ‘women’s events’, more general business events occur with little to no input from women.

Still, International Women’s Day puts some of the challenges we’re still yet to solve in Australia in the spotlight and on the national agenda. Already I’ve seen multiple stories regarding the slow pace of change for women in the mainstream press this week.

We had our new Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer address the National Press Club on Tuesday. Her speech marked a refreshing change from what we’ve previously heard (although we’re still hoping for much more). For one, O’Dwyer openly describes herself as a ‘feminist’ and she appears willing to press for change. That makes her significantly different to her two predecessors.

And then we had our Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek address the Press Club on Wednesday, delivering a bold vision for change, along with a promise to reinstate Time Use surveys, which is vital for us to finally put a dollar value on the contribution women make to the economy through caring and other unpaid work.

There’s been some excellent research to emerge: including the University of Sydney’s report regarding the realities facing young women in the workforce, Conrad Liveris’ report exploring the stats on women in leadership (can you believe there are more ‘Andrews’ leading ASX 200 organisations than women?) and Financy’s latest update, which found some progress being made for women across a number of key measures — but that women on board rates are stalling.

Around IWD, we also see some some big employers announcing initiatives for their female employers. Sometimes, such initiatives can seem opportunistic. But other times they are definitely worth celebrating and acknowledging. Today, I’m particularly impressed with Energy Australia, which will spend $1.2 million increasing the pay of 350 women in order to close its pay gap. Energy Australia managing director Catherine Tanna even apologised that it had taken so long.

We can’t all get to events today. Many of use won’t even have the time to reflect on what this day means, or to consider some of the latest research and stats that should be driving our conversations on what more we need to do to even up the playing field for men and women at work.

So what can we do?

Like most women running a business or trying to manage a career or kids or whatever else they have going on, I have good days and bad days. Ups and downs. Yesterday was a not-so-good day. I’d slept poorly following a night up with the kids. I failed to meet a really important deadline. I made some terrible mistakes that, at the time, felt like I was in the wrong line of work with no right to be doing what I was doing. I felt stressed about IWD, wondering if we were doing enough. I got to 3pm feeling sick and nervous about a talk I was due to be giving at 5:30. Without prompting, I received a text from my colleague Tarla Lambert telling me how great the talk was going to be. She doesn’t know it. But that pulled me out of the slump and made my day.

It’s the really simple things we can do and gestures we make that can change women’s days — and potentially lead to wonderful things.

We shouldn’t need to have International Women’s Day. We should be talking about these issues we’re talking about today, every single day. At least until things change for women all over the world.

So that’s why I think things can be simplified, today. It shouldn’t be hard, or expensive, or cause you any more stress or overwhelm than you may already be dealing with. But you might want to try the following. 

Support women. Through mentoring and sponsoring, or even by reaching out and asking ‘do you need any help?’, ‘Anything I can do?”

Celebrate women. Even just one. Tell someone how great they are, how their work is inspiring. How it’s changed you or led you to do something different.

Encourage women. Reach out to someone in your team, or perhaps a colleague, a student, a niece, a daughter. Ask what they’re looking to achieve, and give them just a little piece of encouragement to help them get there.

Acknowledge women. Call them out on social media! Get their work and their voices heard. They’ll appreciate it.

And finally, acknowledge, support, encourage, celebrate and look after yourself.

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