Comment: International Women’s Day has extra resonance in 2021

Global change is in the palm of our hands, says Accord Marketing, as it speaks to five industry leaders about their experience of being a woman in business

Happy International Women’s Day. Today we mark a global event that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

In 2021, something feels extra pivotal about days in the year that celebrate the great strides taken by groups in society to achieve equality. 2020 gave us an unannounced, but well overdue, education into the ingrained disparities between genders, races and socioeconomic classes in everyday living. But thank goodness that it did.

Some called Covid-19 the great reset, which means that, right now, we have global change in the palm of our hands as we shift our paths to restore a happier and healthier world for all. It’s an important and empowering place to be.

Especially for women, whose superpowers and resilience have been tried, tested and highlighted in the past year. Did you know that 77% of frontline NHS workers are women? Clearly, when the going gets tough, the women we take for granted get going.

Sally Winfield, our chief executive, reminds us every day of what it means to be a great female leader, nurturing a culture that constantly feels inclusive and inspiring. At Accord we are fortunate enough to be connected with a community of aspirational women, whether that be internally or amongst our client and partner base

Today we hand the mic to them. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, so we’ve asked five great women what they want to challenge in 2021, as well as what being a woman in this business means to them.

Jo Vaughton, director of brand, marketing and PR, Celebrity Cruises

What does being a woman in business mean to you?

It means having a seat at the table that helps shape not just the business’ economic and strategic future, but also the future of our employees. I am proud to have a voice and I make sure that I use it to add my perspective as a female leader, as a brand expert and as a working mum.

I’m very conscious of that ‘inner voice’ that many women have – “can I do this, don’t I need more experience first, why would they listen to me?” – and work every day to quieten it and actively share my opinions, my ideas and challenge myself to make the most of the opportunities I am given to effect change.

The theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. What will you challenge in 2021?

I choose to challenge myself to speak up more and help proactively drive more diversity in our industry. We need to keep consciously working at equality at a leadership level, not just with regard to gender but all areas of diversity. The changes we make today will affect the future opportunities for my daughter and her school friends, and that motivates me to show up and help make a difference.

Lisa Warner, director of marketing, Abercrombie & Kent

What does being a woman in business mean to you?

Striving to create an environment and a culture for people to succeed, where they can develop professionally but also personally and gain the confidence and courage to fulfil their potential. Put simply, I love being part of a business where people are encouraged to be the very best that they can be.

The theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. What will you challenge in 2021?

2021 is the year to challenge everything. The pandemic taught us that what we thought would take years to change and evolve, could be changed overnight – because we had to. So, this year I want to take the best of 2020, the ‘can-do’ zeitgeist, and use that spirit to question how we do things. To think differently, challenge the status quo and explore the myriad of ways we can have a positive impact.

Michelle Laverick, head of sales and marketing, HF Holidays

What does being a woman in business mean to you?

I am proud to be in the position I am in business and understanding the challenges that I have faced to get here. There are so many pressures on women in life with having children, childcare and the desire to be a success in everything you turn your hand to. Life isn’t easy and there are always many challenges on the way which we all must contend with. However, I feel I am now able to support and guide others on their career paths, whatever challenges are thrown at them.

The theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. What will you challenge in 2021?

The last 12 months have demonstrated that we can all work productively from home, which has led to an improved work/life balance. Many women have been fighting for this for many years to provide greater flexibility around home life and the school run. When life begins to return to some level of normality, I will be supporting the move to maintain more flexibility in the working day to allow for a continued enhancement of work/life balance rather than employees tied to a desk in an office.

In addition, we need to work harder to ensure that we are able to take a break during the day and support the ‘it’s good to talk’ scheme to make sure we are able to manage the personal impact of the lockdowns in 2020 and in 2021

Maria Payne, chief client officer, Accord Marketing

What does being a woman in business mean to you?

There isn’t a roadmap or a how-to guide for women to specifically succeed in any kind of business, so you have to make your own. I am extremely proud to say that I did just this and that path has led me to sit on the board of directors at Accord Marketing where my opinion counts, and my voice is heard.

The theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. What will you challenge in 2021?

Working from home in 2020 enabled me to have a healthier work/life balance so I will continue to challenge myself to ensure this is maintained.  Plus, I will continue to challenge the status quo in the pursuit of greater returns, challenge my team so they are as good as they possibly can be and challenge inequality in any form.

Clare Tobin, managing director, Biblio Travel

What does being a woman in business mean to you?

I don’t believe it means anything to me as I am a person in business. It’s who I am as a person, what I’ve achieved and who I’ve helped or supported along the way that counts to me personally.

The theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. What will you challenge in 2021?

Celebration of the woman and her unique qualities. Stop women trying to emulate men. Focus on the female traits rather than the masculine criteria for success!

Today is the day that we see, hear and salute women everywhere. But tomorrow we’ll be doing exactly the same.

Now, let’s get back to giving the history books something to write about… or should we say herstory books?

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