International Women’s Day (IWD) is close to our hearts – as colleagues, leaders, parents and daughters, we want to be part of a world that values everybody for who they are. We were thinking about how best to celebrate IWD 2018 and I thought actually I would just like to write an open letter to my daughter and her peers about the hopes I have for the world they will work in. I also thought I would share it with those who inspire me every day. Please see below and if you would like to do the same for your daughter, or son, we would love to hear your thoughts… we are all in it together!
My dearest daughter
I was thinking on my way in to work this morning that in less than ten years time this will probably be you getting the early commute in to London. And then I thought to myself what sort of world do I hope will host your working life. During my career things have certainly changed, for the better, but on International Women’s Day this year there is a call to #pressforprogress. So what are my hopes on where the world will have continued to made progress by the time you start your career…
In many ways I hope that we simply won’t have to have the conversation about a gender pay gap or anything except equal opportunity. Everyone should have the same opportunities and be rewarded in a fair way. More importantly I hope that you won’t feel you have to ‘shout’ just because you are female. I was really proud to create a network for women in an organisation that I worked for a few years ago but I rather hope that these groups won’t have to exist anymore because you will work in a highly supportive, open, non-judgmental environment. I also hope that we haven’t alienated men from the debate – we are all in this together and can achieve great things by standing side by side as advocates for change.
You will have great role models (female and male). Women that are simply themselves and that are able to combine work and a family – and are brilliant at both. Men that also see you for who you are and back you. The role models in my life have been a great support to me, and a huge influence. And yet in truth, in my career there were people at a senior level that I didn’t want to be like – and many of these were females. I think they probably felt that they had to adopt certain behaviours to ‘get ahead’.
I also saw them making huge personal sacrifices and putting guilt upon themselves (myself included). I hope that you can simply be you. Flexible working will be a way of life for everyone. You will get to work where suits you and the organisation that you work for. You will respect the boundaries but be able to make the very most of life – at home and at work. Technology will be an enabler and I really hope that social media will be a valuable place to keep in touch with your friends, family and colleagues – it will be more social rather than less social!
You will make it to the top because of who you are, not just because you tick a box. And across organisations you will see, and experience, truly diverse teams where the collective experiences and insights make for exceptional performance – making a difference to people, communities and the working world. You yourself will lead a truly diverse team and I know you will be a fantastic and trusted leader – valued for who you are and what you bring.
Through my career I have made amazing friendships and I hope more than anything that you will do the same. And if you are working somewhere that doesn’t make you feel happy, for whatever reason, you will walk away. There really will be choices and society will support you to realise your ambitions.
You might choose to follow a passion for sport, or for music, or for art, or for writing? It seems a world away to the time where talented women like the Brontës had to pretend to be men to be published. But we always have more progress to pursue. I’m thinking about our women’s cricket team winning their World Cup in front of a packed house at Lord’s and wondering what next. I am inspired by Lizzie Yarnold and her Team GB team mates in South Korea and wondering who will inspire you?
Finally, your brothers will be your biggest advocates, just like your dad has been for me, and will support you all the way. They will #pressforprogress with you.