OPINION: We need women leaders: the future is female - Sophie Mei Lan
Now etched onto my wall, shoved in between my littering of positive affirmation cards, are my certificates.
I certainly didn’t get trained in DIY by the way I have wonkily hung my array of qualifications and awards.
I shudder at the thought of someone seeing this collection inside my home office, not because of my creative hanging skills but because I wouldn’t want to look boastful. And then I remember why I hung these frames up. I need to remind myself daily to stop downplaying my potential because I do have the knowledge, experience and even awards to put myself out there as a professional, as a woman.
“I’m not really a business, I just do bits of work for clients,” “I’m not qualified enough to do that role,” “I’m just juggling home, work, life and family the best I can but not doing anything well.” Those are not just the statements in my head I have been conditioned to hear, but also in so many other women. This inner thought process holds them back, prevents them from achieving their dreams, simply because they don’t identify as leaders. We need more female leaders driving this world forward, shaking up the status quo and to inspire other women to be part of the growing movement to challenge gender bias, pay disparity and celebrate women’s achievements.
This week - which marked International Women’s Day - calls for these necessary strides forward. The pandemic has exposed huge inequalities, not to mention a huge variety of females in tech, science, media and on the front line who have steered us through the Covid crisis.
But while it’s easy to focus on the end goal, this journey to a more equal and powerful world for all starts from within and acquiring the skill of confidence, which is easier said than done if you’ve grown up in a world of being prejudiced against explicitly and faced unconscious bias, by others and even ourselves.
So firstly, let’s unapologetically recognise our own achievements and remind ourselves of them, even if it comes from sticking up certificates and jotting down our achievements where they are visible. Then begin to connect with women you admire who support your core values. As you consume more content or spend time with these women who cheerlead one another, that’s where you can start to discover or even build communities who can campaign together to create this much needed change.
I too have pledged to be part of this change after surrounding myself with cheerleaders who give each other strength to show up through the highs and lows of running businesses and a home.
One of those is fellow entrepreneur Amy Downes. We decided to launch our Sparkle Up North Magazine this International Women’s Day to celebrate the stories of female run businesses and to foster a community of like-minded women.
Written in one of my last cards from a heroine in my life, my Aunty Didi, who passed away last week, she said: “We all need you. Don’t let all the hard work you have achieved be blown away.” That’s your rallying cry too when you have another hurdle to strut over. Look how far we’ve come and how far we can go!