Celebrating International Women’s day with our Joint MD, Katherine Lee
To celebrate International Women’s day, I have been reflecting on my experience of working my way from Junior Consultant to Joint Managing Director at System Concepts. I have been lucky to be surrounded, encouraged and inspired by women throughout my journey and will continue to pay this forward. In fact, 80% of us working at System Concepts are women so I have lots of opportunities to support my colleagues in achieving their goals, aspirations and to express their talent.
I was inspired recently by listening to Melinda Gates’ audio book, The Moment of Lift, in which she describes the importance of empowering women and that, in doing this society is lifted as a whole. What I am particularly interested in is women empowering women. Sarah Stone, co-founder of the Female Success network says “Empowering others will naturally empower you”. So, if women are empowering other women then collectively, we are all being lifted.
So, in practice, how can we do this at work? And I don’t just mean to improve the stats about the percentage of women with boardroom seats and gender pay gaps, but also to improve our wellbeing, feeling of worth and confidence to succeed. Here are some thoughts on how…
1. Appreciate the women in our lives
We are all surrounded by amazing women in our lives; mums; leaders; friends; sisters; colleagues. And we have opportunities every day to support and empower each other. At work we can do this by thanking a colleague for support, sharing and amplifying other women’s achievements and complimenting each other’s work.
2. Support mothers in the workplace
My experience is that mothers make amazing colleagues. They support the people they work with, can quickly and easily go into emergency mode, express kindness and empathy regularly, are pragmatic and seem to have the efficiency of a superhuman!
There is a saying (commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin) – ‘If you want something done ask a busy person’ and you’d be hard pressed to find a busier person than a working mum!
Supporting mothers at work essentially requires flexibility. And when we allow the whole team to be flexible (whether they are a parent or not) it allows us to adapt to changing requirements and support each other when things aren’t quite going to plan. I can’t count the number of times I have seen one mum jump straight in and take over a fellow colleagues work when they fall ill, their childcare falls through or they need a break.
3. Advocate for women at work
We can do this in many ways, such as supporting another woman’s point of view in a meeting if it’s not being heard; speaking up if you hear women being treated unfairly; calling out inappropriate behaviour; or supporting a colleague when you can tell she is struggling. Working together as a positive team will give us the momentum to move things forward.
I think there is sometimes a belief that there are not enough opportunities for everyone and I believe this can lead to some women feeling pressured to compete with female colleagues in order to promote themselves. I believe it’s our role as female business leaders to encourage the women we work with to help each other – push each other forward and pull each other up – if we did this, we would all be lifted together. As Susan Skog said;
“If one woman soars, it doesn’t mean your wings are clipped, or that there’s limited air space. We all came here to fly – fly far”.