On International Women’s Day, one comms professional considers the positive impacts of embracing equality.
by Daniel Cattanach
International Women’s Day takes place on Tuesday 8 May. It’s an opportunity for us all to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.
The International Women’s Day website states its mission to forge inclusive work cultures where women’s careers thrive and their achievements are celebrated. It quotes the world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem: "The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."
As communicators, we all have a collective responsibility to play our part in sharing the vision and values of International Women’s Day. This doesn’t mean just sharing a stock image of a successful woman alongside an aspirational quote and the hashtag #BreakTheBias. It means actually helping to establish a culture of equality in society – both through our organisations and through our lives.
The everyday actions of communicators may range from handling the predictable "When is International Men’s Day?" responses on social media (19 November) to sharing the inspirational achievements of their women colleagues and highlighting opportunities for others through internal, stakeholder and external comms.
A key element of communication is listening. We need to take on board the shared experiences and knowledge of other people in order to show real empathy and respect in order to build trust, rather than being tone deaf when we’re trying to engage. We might not always get it right but we must be open to learn from others and learn from our mistakes.
For my part, I’m trying to improve my understanding of the everyday challenges that women face, just to be treated equally, as I aim to be more of an advocate for change.
I’ve recently started using LinkedIn more productively – connecting with inspirational people and posts – opening my eyes and broadening my mind with better and more equitable ways of thinking.
I’d turned to LinkedIn after taking a long break from Twitter to spare my mental health from the vitriol I was scrolling through, which seemed to be drowning out the good stuff on the platform. Sadly, this negativity seems to be seeping into LinkedIn – with some women being judged on their appearance and having their professionalism questioned as a result.
I appreciate that I’ve only witnessed a fraction of the appalling amount of nonsense that many women have to endure every day. But even once is too much. I find it shameful that some people still hold such outdated opinions of women.
Inspiring women with a positive influence
To counter this unpleasant undercurrent of antiquated thinking, I want to recognise the inspirational women leaders that I’m grateful to for guiding me through my life and career…
The news editor who rescued me from a toxic work environment and restored my belief in myself by showing how it’s possible to be a good news line manager and a nice person.
The comms and marketing manager who gave me my first break in public sector comms; educating me in both comms and marketing, and empowering me to take risks and be innovative.
The city leader who believed in me in high-pressure situations and gave me the confidence to believe in my own abilities.
The head of comms who was an inspirational leader and created an excellent comms and marketing team; made up of talented people whose different skills and aptitude complement each other.
The strategic PR leader whose inspirational posts and Twitter chats on ethics in PR and speaking truth to power have guided me on the correct path.
The creative comms supremo whose expert comms insight, infectious creativity and seemingly boundless energy has kept me going, especially through the pandemic.
The caring comms collective who have supported my mental health through their tireless and selfless efforts to help hard-pressed comms folk find a release (and relief) from the pressures we face.
My best friend for her trusted advice and strategic guidance – in life and work – and for proving it’s possible to change your career path and make a great success of it.
Finally, and most importantly, my two magnificent daughters for their character strengths, calling out inequality and giving me hope for the future.
I hope you’ll also take the opportunity to consider the women who have had a positive impact on your life and career, so that we can all learn more from one another and truly take a greater leap towards equality.
Daniel Cattanach is a senior communications officer working in regional government. You can say hello to him on LinkedIn.
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Image via Kimberley-Marie
Image via Dulcey Lima