Photo by Loren Joseph on Unsplash
Today is International Day of the Girl Child, which is about getting honest about the challenges girls' face and empowering them with the resources and capabilities to overcome them. The theme this year is 'Girlforce: Unscripted and Unstoppable'. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action developed in 2015 as an outcome from the Fourth World Conference of Women, covers 12 key areas:
• education and training;
• armed conflict;
• power and decision-making;
• institutional mechanisms;
• human rights;
• media; environment; and
• the girl child.
If I think about the overwhelming statistics that continue to show that for women in finance, we're not making it to the top and we're still not earning what we're worth (when compared to our male counterparts) and we're actually starting to avoid the industry as a viable and long term career, then this is an important day for us.
Today is important for us
I want to touch on 2 areas of concern raised in the Platform for Action that are important, in particular, for women in finance: economy and power and decision-making. Economy We know we are underrepresented, not only in finance but in business overall. This is for a number of complex and interdependent reasons that have evolved over time as women's rights and expectations have changed. We still carry the mental load, it is still expected that we take time away from the workforce yet are not supported in our reintegration into the workforce or compensated for our contribution to society when we are on maternity leave. Financial literacy at a personal level still continues to be a struggle even for professional women, which often compounds the issue. Power and decision making Look around the table in your meetings today. How many women are there? How many women hold roles more senior than you? What influence do they have in organisational decision making? What do you think that means for the decisions being made - do you think they adequately address your unique issues, concerns and needs? How are women in finance perceived in your organisation? It's complex, and I've only skimmed the surface at some of the issues and concepts raised in the Plan for Action. But I share this with you to know that the issues you face on a day to day basis, those feelings of inadequacy and unfairness, those challenges to get to where you want to be, they are real. People in high places (i.e. the UN) know and are doing their best to instill awareness and mobilise action that will solve these problems. You play an important part I want you to consider where you're at today. And think about the challenges you face, the things that stress you out. I invite you to think about how they may relate to the 2 areas of concern I have discussed briefly above. Is there a link? Let's discuss briefly a third area of concern: education and training.
Education and training
As we move up the career ladder we are more exposed to the realities of gender inequality and unconscious bias. We see the impact of company politics and the reality of the pressure to deliver profit. As such, our need for education and training to help us navigate our difficult landscape is essential. Yet how often are we encouraged to attend that training or take the time off to learn that skill? There is a tension between learning for the future and surviving in the present and often, the learning suffers. But learning is the enabler. If we are going to continue to thrive in the complex world we live in, we need to have the skills to support us. We need to know what we need. We need to know where to get it. "We need to uphold the equal rights, voices and influence of girls in our families, communities and nations. Girls can be powerful agents of change, and nothing should keep them from participating fully in all areas of life." — UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Be Unstoppable: 3 actions you can take today
1. Identify the aspiration that that means the most to you, or the challenge you believe is most important to overcome.
2. Ask yourself, 'what skill do I need to make that happen?'.
3. Find out where, how or who can teach you that skill.
If you hesitate or think you don't have the time, remember: today is the day. Today is the day you can contribute to the increased awareness and action for change for the girls and women of today and today. Be unscripted and unstoppable. Then start a conversation to create change. With your peers, team and leaders: men and women. Be unstoppable.