International Women’s Day isn’t just about PR
by Hayley Doyle
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” - Madeleine Albright
Hell yeah! Let’s raise our hands to the sisterhood. For many of us, teenagers in the 90s, it was mind-blowing to see the Spice Girls ruling popular culture and literally screaming about female friendship, ambition and being true to yourself. They were a total phenomenon, full of positive impact, and although many, many women came before them who will forever inspire us, this movement was in your face and taking up space!
These days, you’ll scroll through your social media daily and see fabulous uplifting quotes about women supporting women. The celebrations of International Women’s Day welcomes a fresh wave of these quotes and captions featuring photographs and reels of electrifying leaders and events. It’s a beautiful burst of pink. It’s the deep belly laughter that only comes from spending time with your girls. It’s strong, fierce, and full of care.
But is it real? Is it authentic? Or is it all talk and no action?
Another well-known quote often shared is that, “Girls compete with each other, women empower each other.” As adults, we might like these posts and write our support in the comments. We may be invited to female-empowering events, show up and sing in solidarity with our sisters. But it’s important - for the movement to keep moving in the right direction - to dig deep and ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions. Have we moved on from our school days, following the Queen Bee? Do we choose jealousy over admiration? Is looking good on the surface still held in higher regard than what lies beneath? Do we continue to judge one another, rather than listen?
Well, change is not created in a day. Natasha Hatherall, PR Expert, founder and CEO of female-driven agency, TishTash, reminds us that like how a puppy is not just for Christmas, supporting women isn’t just for one day, one week or one month. She says that, “If you are advocating in this area and are committed to make a real difference, then you have to be living and breathing it day in and day out,” and unfortunately has witnessed companies that do not practice what they preach. If you sell a product that is female-focused, you aren’t naturally empowering. At a glance, you might look like an absolute cheerleader, but behind the bouncy smiles and high kicks to make the crowd go wild, what is happening behind the scenes?
I once worked for a small female-led company. At times, it was joyful. Business meetings could end in laughter and tears, that feeling of being in the best job in the world, because of each other. But there was an astronomical problem; Inconsistency. For every good day we experienced, there would be a bad one to endure. The energy of the company was controlled by the management and the team were constantly walking on eggshells. One minute our leader was our best friend, our sister, our mother. The next, her empathy levels shot down to zero. In the media, our work looked incredibly nurturing and wholesome. But how we were being treated was anything but. One of my colleagues was made redundant and told “sensitively” over a coffee in a quiet cafe. She returned to the office devastated, but calm, piecing together the conversation and trying to be understanding about the company’s apparent financial situation. Shortly after this, our boss danced in with shopping bags. There had been a sale on at the mall. She displayed the jeans she’d bought for “a bargain” by holding them up against her and giving a twirl. The moment was thoughtless and cruel, and a horrible atmosphere was cast across the room. Of course, our product remained brilliant to the outsider. The PR created a world of happiness and progress. So, we all put on a brave face and worked to the best of our ability, within reason. But this is just one example of the many cracks in that business, and they became so large over the next couple of years that eventually, I made the decision to walk away before it all - inevitably - crumbled to nothing.
The saying, Empowered Women Empower Women, comes to mind. There is a big difference in being empowered and being a bully. How you treat your employees will say a lot about you in the end. Are you fair? Do you listen? Are you striving towards the bigger picture with platefuls of humanity or greed? You cannot achieve your goal without your support network, so don’t bully them. Empower them! It’s worth remembering what writer Brenda Ueland said, “Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.” If you hired somebody, then you must find a way to make them shine. Encourage, nurture, respect. The results will not only be positive, but sustainable, generating growth and longevity.
International Women’s Day 2022 has now arrived. The campaigns, events and celebrations are all exploding with support for each other, in the hope that when women support women, incredible things happen. However, the messaging must translate into your company’s values and stay consistent beyond today. It takes a lot of effort to create an event with meaning, that showcases your business and shines a spotlight on its success, all thanks to the amazing women in your team. But the real effort goes above and beyond how wonderful your “IWD Promo Code” might be.
Samie Al-Achrafi is the CEO of Marmalade Fish, the Middle East’s first - and currently only - certified B Corp, which voluntarily meets higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance. In his book, #Time4Humanity, he writes, “Our egos would have us believe that the more we do, the more we become. This idea of success can work - or at least appear to work - in the short term. But over the long term, power and money by themselves are like a two-legged stool - we can balance on them for a while, but eventually we will topple over.”
So girls, quit the bitching. Empower yourself with understanding and become a woman who truly lifts her fellow women up. Think of what we can actually achieve if we stand side by side, in strength and love, eliminating the pettiness that pulls us down and achieves nothing. If we’re putting words out there into the world for others to read, let those words mean more than a cool font with an eye-catching image. Let them take action.
Together, we “wannabe” the change we want to see in the world. Zig-a-zig-ah!