13 March 2019

Balancing for better in business. Inspiring sayings from the International Women’s Day

by Kayleigh Maggs


International women day photo

Job specs made more gender neutral Flexible working to be more inclusive to both genders Re-train our eyes and brains to see differently and stop seeing the wallpaper covering the things and people around usHosted at the elegantly beautiful ‘Bristol Harbour hotel’, a reasonably early start of 8:30am and when I arrive, it seems I wasn’t the only one excited for the event as the venue is packed! After a quick refreshment, a few introductions to new faces, a devilishly delicious pastry and we move downstairs for the morning discussions to start.

The theme is ‘balance for better’ on international women’s day. Unsurprisingly, the guest panel is mixed and there are a handful of men who’ve come along too. Though today’s focus is on celebrating the growth of women in the past and today, the event is inspiring balance for all so it makes perfect sense for the audience to be mixed. It would be hypocritical to push for the same rights as men without understanding the rights of women, that men have been fighting for too. Until that moment, I hadn’t considered we had rights men wish they had. Quite naïve of me but this reinforces the need to educate people on the subject. The mindset cannot be changed until it has been taught.

The first guest speaker is Lu Wilmott representing a charity, One25. They work closely with women working in the sex industry and offer them support, food, drink, hot water bottles and as much time as they want in a safe place. A charity which many don’t offer empathy towards due to its nature and the assumption that they are on the street by choice.

Statistically, one third of the women have been through the care system. 80% are homeless, 99% addicted to drugs or alcohol and 100% risk their lives every time they get into a car, to survive. In 2018, ‘One25’ helped 54 women to come off the street and an incredible 240 women were helped over the year. It’s not just the physical help they provide too, the support is also in enabling them to address the obstacles they face to come off the street. They rely on donations; something as small as £5 gives a food bag and a hot drink. It’s saddening to think about what the women are put through, the mental trauma they must’ve experienced to get there and the ongoing mental and physical torture of living with it. Thankfully, charities like One25 exist and looking around the room, I can see many faces like mine who are touched by Lu’s words and will be looking to donate and help them continue making the change, step by step.

International women day photoThe vibrant Emma Clune introduces the panel of guest speakers who sit before us, Dion Johnson, Halina Jaroszewska and Jonathan Gaunt. Their energy is positively contagious.

We are encouraged by Halina to ‘Reflect, re-think and reboot’, which is this year’s slogan for Tedx Bristol. Stop and think about how we

can challenge to change ourselves, consider how can I be different? Take the onus on why a situation didn’t pan out the way you wanted it to as when you point the finger at someone else, you will see three fingers pointing back at you. How our mind thinks dictates what we say, what we say dictates the results that we get. To change the results, we need to first change what we think. Quite a powerful thought.

International women day photoDion takes her turn to dazzle us. Her story of her past and the obstacles she’s come up against is awe-inspiring, I’m choked up by her words and can’t help but be mesmerised by her.  To influence change, you must do it with respect and honour. Finding a way to communicate in a way which appeals to the other person is key. Dion draws reference to the children’s story of the sun and the wind.  It teaches a moral of the superiority of persuasion over force and how we can use that through life. What is pivotal, is we must find a way for us to work together and in this instance, get shared rights for both; balance for better.

Jonathans view on how we can adopt a new way of thinking and doing is quite refreshing, one which should be easily grasped by peers in the workplace still struggling to come on board with a room with no gender restrictions. It’s an idea easily identified with, Jonathan speaks of how we should adopt the mindset of children, showing no prejudice. Question yourself, if that were my child, grandchild or even me as a child, how would I want my children/myself to play and interact? I’m confident we would all actively encourage them/ourselves to play with everyone, show kindness, understanding and above all else, help make everyone feel involved.

But, as women, what happens when we are champions of change? Far too often, we are stereotyped as the ‘angry women’ whereby passion and desire is misconstrued as anger and aggression.

So how do we start to model change?

  • Job specs made more gender neutral
  • Flexible working to be more inclusive to both genders
  • Re-train our eyes and brains to see differently and stop seeing the wallpaper covering things and people around us

Dion reminds us that the way things present themselves is subjective as we’ve learnt how to see them. To see things differently we need to take our lenses off and analyse what could’ve been if you’d thought differently, behaved or showed up differently. This is the journey to changing our ways.

The theme of communication styles is prevalent in how to do things in a better way. Only the day before in a separate meeting, Berkeley Harris of Sandler Consultancy had asked the group if we still lived by the saying, ‘Treat others how you want to be treated yourself’. He immediately screamed NO at us to our amusement! Treat someone how THEY wish to be treated, we are all individuals after all.

View things from a different perspective, how you may be portrayed outside of what you can see. How can we step up to do something different?

Historically, we’ve tried to assimilate how things worked, put shoulder pads on to gain assertiveness and respect from colleagues. There is another way, our natural power needs to be revalued and brought forward. Individuality is an identity statement, but we now need to find a way of blending.

International women day photoHumorously, Halina compares growth and learning to a baby first learning to walk. The baby takes a few steps, wobbles and falls onto its bottom. To which the parents pick up the child and soothingly assure it, ‘It’s ok, you tried, we will carry you all your life’. Like with learning to walk, the phase of life we are entering is new but worth striving for and each effort, should be celebrated as it denotes progression.

Jonathan reminds us that as children learning to ride a bike, we fall, we get back on and try again. Why as adults do, we question our own abilities? Our unconscious thinking is often the reason we usurp forward thinking.

Change must start in education, and with us, the guardians and parents. Sport like rugby, ballet, art, drama, we need to encourage diversity and instigate the change at an early age and spur children on to try everything, to find their passion rather than cast the gender division into what our children do.  If we do, sadly, we are the ones who are subconsciously building the walls and gender divisions within our children.

International women day photo

Balance is better for all, we are a society of people not a society of men and women divided. As one we are stronger, wiser and capable of achieving so much more. To push forward, we must stop doing what we’re doing and start afresh, keeping that vision prevalent in our mind.

Through our efforts, keep fluidity of the mind in telling yourself, ‘at the moment ‘. A brilliant final piece of advice from Halina. Don’t allow your mind to cast doubt by reminding yourself, that feeling is temporary ……I can’t change it, at the moment.

Becoming a disruptor in the organisation is a big task and there is a process to getting ready for that but we’ve all come so far already. The frustration is shared across genders, so many men are the biggest advocates for gender equality, through time we will achieve balance for better, for all.

And to finish with another marvel from Dion, ‘you never change something by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete. ‘Safe to say, the old model of me I left my home as that morning has already been replaced by a much more informed, enthused version. Personal growth was inevitable after a morning spent with not only the panel speakers, but the entire room who engaged so energetically in the conversations. Thank you all.