With March, the month of International Women’s Day, coming to an end, I find myself reflecting on what it means to be a woman in the world today. I wonder what the future holds for my soon-to-be-born daughter – tomorrow’s woman. While March is a time of celebration, it is also a time to increase understanding of gender equality and the work that remains to be done.
Just over a year ago, The Economist talked to dozens of girls in Europe and America, and noted “the girls’ sense of shared identity and shared potential.” Unlike years ago, being a girl is not defined in opposition to being a boy. Instead, being a girl is now characterized by the variety of behaviours, interests, and attitudes that they are allowed, and that they allow themselves to have. Girls dream about becoming surgeons and aerospace engineers; they equally enjoy playing soccer and baking treats.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t quite know how to support what these ‘new girls’ have the potential to become. Exploitation, manipulation, and condescension are still persistent behaviours towards women. Consider the reproductive health and rights discussion in the United States, Afghanistan’s Taliban government postponing girls’ access to education, or even Canada’s persistent gender pay gap.
How parents treat their daughters today matters more than we can imagine. Mothers and fathers are both essential role models in creating relationships that can break stereotypes, build independence, and encourage girls to fight for their rights. Parents can help encourage constructive values by letting go of traditional gender role attitudes.
The same Economist article mentioned that “Girls in America are more likely than boys to say that they want to make the world a better place; and more likely to say they want to be a leader.” Therefore, women need to be allowed to make decisions and not always pressured to conform to social expectations.
Argyle has many women in leadership positions, and while it is impossible to define womanhood, I thought I would ask my coworkers what being a woman in leadership means to them, as well as words of advice they might have shared with their daughters or received themselves over the years:
“Work hard, be kind, be yourself:” They’re all important but I find for women, there is often an expectation of ‘how to be a leader’ and it can be constraining. I once tried to emulate a leader I admired. It was a disaster. iI wasn’t me and it showed. You need to find out how your own expression of leadership can be authentic in your relationships.” – Kim Blanchette – Senior Vice President & General Manager (Western Canada)
“Our success in life relies on how we learn to manage the unexpected, how we forge our way to where we need to be without always needing to know why we took the first step. My best advice to women is to define their journey, guided by their values and understanding there will be things they can change, and others they can only influence. That’s why it’s so important to use your influence wisely.” – Yvette Rasmussen – Director, Indigenous Communications
“Being a woman in leadership is an opportunity to create a welcome, safe space where people don’t feel that they have to be perfect. I think women often feel they need to be twice as good as their male counterparts to be seen as half as smart. Unfortunately, in some workplaces, this is true. I want to chart a different course and show another way. Mostly, I tell my daughters that they are enough, exactly as they are. That no one and nothing is out of their league.” – Andrea Manchon – Vice President, Engagement & Communications (British Columbia)
“As a mixed-race Caucasian – Anishaabekwe (Ojibway-Cree woman), to be considered a leader in any realm is an honour… The respect for women from my cultural lens reminds me that being a woman in leadership is not about having or commanding power; it is about harnessing the power that lies within you. It is about honing your intuitive wisdom that is generations deep by listening and learning from everyone around you as you strive to live the principles and values that guide your work.” – Krystal Summers – Indigenous Community Relations & Urban Strategy Lead
So, what about tomorrow?
At Argyle we know representation matters, and we will not shy away from engaging in society’s most challenging issues and conversations. We have been honoured to support many clients’ equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. The people who comprise communities – of all ages, genders and cultures – play an integral role in helping to create positive change. We equip people with the information they need to make the important choices that matter to them – setting up our clients and their projects for success. Let’s chat if you’re interested in learning more about how we can collaborate.
About the Author
Mariel is a Project Management Professional and a public and stakeholder engagement expert with experience working on robust and multi-faceted initiatives that involve complex, high-profile and sensitive issues. She brings plentiful experience in planning and managing engagement for urban and rural development projects across Canada, Venezuela and Mexico. She brings a strong background in evaluating public participation policy for decision-making and risk assessment.