Last week was quite a week. I had been invited to participate in a debate at the House of Lords in honour of International Women’s Day. 20 women were invited. Interestingly, to host a historic event such as this took it took the cooperation of a man and woman. It was the joint effort Lady and Lord Popat who managed to secure the House to open up the chambers to an outside event.
Lord and Lady Popat, the hosts, both moved to the U.K. in the 1970 ’s. They worked their way up, having left the despotic regime of Idi Amin in Uganda to highly regarded members of the business community in this country.
Lady Popat, a Lady in her own right spoke of her journey from having had to fight for her right to education now ran the family business.
Being the youngest of four, education was not encouraged for her. Circumstances meant she had to choose work over education. She didn’t let that stop her. As soon as she was able to she put herself through university, and now, of course, runs the family business.
This demonstrates to me how determination, timing, and a sense of what one is worth is of great importance. This brings me right back to the girls of Pardada Pardadi the school for impoverished girls in India that I am a trustee for. How different their faces look, how changed their demeanour is once they start school. When they begin to understand they can do their life different to their mothers, and her mother. The potential that lies there waiting for just the one opportunity.
It is not easy to describe how I felt being there, amongst 19 powerful, accomplished and inspiring women. Looking around the room I had to accept that I was one of them! Ironically, just the previous morning I had delivered a workshop to a group of women leaders about the Imposter Syndrome! Wow, did I feel an imposter for a few days when I received the invitation.
In my job over the years I have seen how talented, educated, smart and successful women hold back and struggle with confidence. This is why I run the Rise with Confidence workshops, to move this obstacle out of their way.
That’s not the only reason the stats are so low for women in top leadership roles. There is the very natural fact that we are the ones who give birth. Often, women are having to choose between having a family and a successful career.
That’s not saying that women don’t do it. Just looks at Dame Helena Morrisey, she has 9 and she is still considered one of the top women in the City.
For this to work we need help. We need systems to change, affordable and shared childcare. We need a change in attitudes.
Sexual harassment at work needs to be tackled. 15 years of my career was spent working in corporates. It’s almost the norm, the way things are. There needs to be more emphasis placed on creating safety in the workplace so that employees can speak up.
In the wake of the President’s Club scandal, many, including me, signed a petition to reinstate Section 40 of the Equality Act 2010 that was revoked in 2013. This stated that employers have a duty of care to protect their employees from any sexual harassment from colleagues or clients. If you would like to sign the petition you can do that here.
Did I mention equal pay? The fact that women don’t earn equal pay for equal work, even in the United Kingdom is as absurd to me as girls not being allowed the right to an education on the basis that they are girls! I’m so proud of anyone standing up for these rights, like the brave Carrie Gracie who’s holding the BBC to account. It’s should start at the top, the government can start paying their female MP’s the same as the male ones!
Once again this brings me back full circle to the children. Right from an early age we are socialised to believe what I would call lies. At a young age, girls start to develop complexes, despite performing better in schools than the boys. Boys stride along with a sometimes overinflated sense of confidence. Or at times also fave their own challenges, expected by their peers to act or even dress a certain way.
The education system can do so much to change this from an early age. It was Baroness Karen Brady who said children should be taught how to have self-esteem. Academics are important to set you up for exams and jobs. What about teaching children the basics of how to have good relationships, how to be confident, resilient and to negotiate.
There is so much to be done as we press for progress. I certainly would like to see a more collaborative attitude between men and women. The idea is not to leave men behind it is to stand beside them. The speaker of the house so beautiful closed the debate last Friday by getting us all to imagine a world where it did not matter if you were a boy or a girl, you just were.
That is the world I envision for the future. Have always envisioned. A Gentle World, where there is no need to abuse or indeed be abused. Where we strive for enlightenment rather than power.
If you got here it means you took the time to read my rather long blog, thank you. What do you think?
I would love to hear your thoughts. You can reply to this email or indeed head on over to my Facebook Page and leave a comment.
I will continue to press for progress…