31 January 2019

Women's Work?

Women_for_Women_JC_talk_main

Photo by Steve Murigi

2018 was a particularly vibrant year for working with women. I felt privileged to give several talks at various events for women including:

  • The Connectives’  development programmes for women staff at the Co-operative Bank
  • as a keynote speaker at WinTrade Festival in London – an international event aimed at BAME women entrepreneurs
  • Springboard specialist training programmes run by Pat Miller for women who have experienced domestic abuse and succeeded in leaving the abusive person
  • as a keynote speech at Women for Women International UK’s one-day feminist festival, #sheinspiresme.

2018 was a year in which even more women realised the power of collective action. There was the highly publicised #metoo campaign about sexual harassment in the media world and events on a massive scale such as up to 5 million women joining hands to form a human chain to protest about being discriminated against by being excluded from temples. There were also Women’s Marches in the US on a scale rarely seen before.

I remember a senior woman asking a couple of years ago ‘Is confidence-building training really still needed for women these days?’ It was a genuine question from someone who had worked hard to reach her leadership position. But one of my conclusions from my work with women is that never have we needed encouragement and support more.

These are uneasy times. And socio-economic instability tends to affect women disproportionately. And our tendency to care for –and about –others can mean we get left behind when resources are more scarce. We can often be less inclined to ask for help when we need it.

The women I met at the events above were from very diverse backgrounds and were at quite different stages in their life. But what they had in common was two things.

First there was a powerful need for positive stories to keep them going, to motivate them to get over some of the often substantial hurdles which life presented to them.

And when they had the opportunity to tell their stories, to articulate who they were and what their experience had been, it let them see themselves differently.

Second, once you feel heard, assertiveness is still one of the best skills you can acquire as a woman. You cannot control how another person responds to you but you can choose to express your views clearly, calmly and without making it personal. As with having the opportunity to tell your story, feeling heard by another person is empowering.

The women I met at the events above were from very diverse backgrounds and were at quite different stages in their life. But what they had in common was two things.

First there was a powerful need for positive stories to keep them going, to motivate them to get oversome of the often substantial hurdles which life presented to them. And when they had the opportunity to tell their stories, to articulate who they were and what their experience had been, it let them see themselves differently.

Second, once you feel heard, assertiveness is still one of the best skills you can acquire as a woman. You cannot control how another person responds to you but you can choose to express your views clearly, calmly and without making it personal.


I asked Shivonne Graham, Managing Director at Women for Women International UK, for her take on this:

‘Women need opportunities and choices in order to build their own version of a fulfilling, purposeful life. I believe one of the most important factors is having visible and relatable role models –women need to see other women achieving success. We also need to develop the tools in our toolkit –like resilience and determination –so we can overcome all the obstacles we will encounter. Last, but definitely not least, women need to open doors for other women -wherever and whenever they can. In order to truly thrive as individuals, we need to make sure that no-one is left behind.’

I met so many women in 2018 willing to share of their time and experience honestly and generously, even when it was painful sometimes to do so. Doing that spurs other women on. It makes me feel optimistic.

If you are a woman reading this, maybe consider, who will get to hear your story in 2019? And how could it help others? And if you don’t identify as a woman, but you want to encourage women, how could you help women you know get their views and stories heard?

Why not contact us and share your stories?

 
 
 
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