Catherine You, current On Purpose Associate from the April 2013 cohort, contemplates the significance of the women in her life in celebration of International Women’s Day.
On Saturday, March 8th, the world celebrates International Women’s Day – a day to recognise the achievements of women and to express love and appreciation toward women. According to The People’s Business, a report on the state of the social enterprise sector, “social enterprises are far more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses…91% of social enterprises have at least one woman on their leadership team.” These are impressive statistics!
As I contemplate my year as an On Purpose Associate (which will soon come to an end), there are three key reasons that I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate all of the women who made this year so wonderful, challenging and fun.
(1) Shared ideas:
I have had so many interesting and informative conversations this year about gender differences in leadership, the portrayal of women in the media and more. On an average day at Social Enterprise UK, my second placement host, the conversation could easily be mistaken for a university class discussion in Feminist Philosophy. Most recently, we discussed how current ideals of beauty in the Western world are in many ways unhealthy, and considered the consequences of not adhering to these ideals. The entire office is often pulled into such conversations – which provides diverse voices and opinions – and articles or web links are always shared. Apart from being both stimulating and challenging, these discussions have created a space for me to think critically about issues, understand how they fit in with my own experiences, and open my mind to new ideas.
As a woman who, prior to becoming an On Purpose Associate studied mathematics and worked in technology, I have spent most of my educational and professional life to date in male-dominated environments.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at On Purpose and joined a cohort where women represent 70% of the group! I have developed great camaraderie and fellowship with these women as we have shared many challenges and experiences throughout the year. Having access to such clever and perceptive women as a sounding board and support network has improved my confidence and helped me tackle the challenges and opportunities presented this year.
(3) Role Models:
I believe it is critical to have strong role models in the workplace. As we know, humans are social creatures, and having strong role models is important to our development starting from the moment we are born. According to the McKinsey report Women Matter 2, women apply three key leadership behaviours (more frequently than do men) that drive organisational performance – people development, expectations and rewards, and role model. The report highlights female leaders as a corporate performance driver, especially vital as organisations tackle tomorrow’s social and business problems. During my first placement at Firetail, I learned about female leadership by working with some exceptional female leaders. The role models I have come across this year have made such claims about the strength of female leadership completely come to life for me.
Thank you to all of the women who have each made a wonderful contribution to my personal and professional journey and who mean so much to me. Happy International Women’s Day!