“The history books show us that through the struggles, determination and successes of the women who have come before us, we, the women of today, have greater opportunities and the ability to feel empowered to walk our own path, while also empowering others to do the same.” (Paving the Way to Gender Equality is Leadership! - WCG)
On the International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 the Women of Wolter (WOW) came together with their industry peers not only to celebrate this important day but to unpack some of the challenges women have faced throughout history and to recognise some incredible achievements of the women who have come before us and the women we know today.
The IWD 2021 theme #ChooseToChallenge also called us to think about our ongoing responsibility to make life more sustainable for women in workplaces, to be the change and to lead with positivity.
Anne-Marie Rice, a highly sought-after mediator and our inspiring guest speaker at the event, reminds us that “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.”
Anne-Marie adopts a philosophy that “conflict can be resolved without combat”. She calls for all women of all generations to turn around and be the change. But to “turn around for a dance, not a fight.”
“Things are changing, but they are not yet changed!”
While we see many more women in the workforce today, even in male dominated professions, the places around the decision-making tables are still overwhelmingly dominated by males. How then, can the decisions that are consistent with the female workforce be made?
“I think about the many people who let their health take a back seat, because they don’t have time to be sick,” says our young Planner, Gabrielle Toohey, who shared her story with us on the day as the voice for young generation of women in the workforce, reflecting on her experiences as a professional and as a daughter and grand-daughter.
“I realise that my father was only able to work the hours he worked, due to my mother choosing to put her working life behind her to raise my siblings and I. And I find myself asking, why does the working world see our basic human needs as weaknesses and inconveniences? Why do we punish ourselves, for being human?”
“These work-life scenarios that we all face and live, particularly as women, suddenly seem unsustainable to me. It is then this, and the tired old narrative that ‘the harder you work, the better your life will be’ … that I hope to challenge throughout my career. As I truly believe that the health and wellbeing of people lies at the heart of a prosperous future.”
As women, we can relate to our ability to care for others; For people we work with and for people we work for. Yet, we often forget that we do matter.
Yesterday, at the WOW IWD 2021 Event, as we shared the room with 100 women from our industry - planners, designers, surveyors, engineers, environment and sustainability professionals, community engagement consultants, development managers, architects, lawyers, paralegals, administration, human resource and marketing communications professionals, we reminded ourselves that the decisions we make are incredibly important to our community - where we live, how we live and how we see ourselves in our communities, is our responsibility.
“The responsibility for the change to make professional life sustainable for women is mine, it’s ours.” - Anne-Marie Rice
While many historically male dominated professions are changing in terms of gender balance, we are reminded that “things are changing but they are not yet changed.”
2015 KPMG Women's Leadership study showed that 86% of women see possibility in getting to positions of leadership and feel that it is an attainable goal when they see more women in these positions (K. Wallace and B. DeVita for elevatenetwork.com)
So even if women do have to swim “against the tide”, as Anne-Marie puts it, and experience “exhaustion from having to fight to just be able to do their job” - especially true for those industries that are heavily male dominated, it all becomes worth it when we know that we empower and pave the way for our female peers and our young generation.
We are in this together!
“Companies and individuals can [and should] take actions that set women up to succeed in any work environment,” say Kristy Wallace and Betty DeVita (Creating Opportunities for Women to Succeed in Male Dominated Industries). Such as: Don’t let stereotypes and unconscious biases get to you; Find your network of support (women are stronger together); Take ownership of your accomplishments; Set the stage (create and inclusive environment at work); And if your company won’t support you, move on and find a place that will.
We can proudly say that at Wolter Consulting Group, we do have a very supportive and very inclusive work environment. And our men here are a very important part of changing the narrative and working together towards a truly inclusive and diverse workplace.
“People are at the heart of our company’s five core values,” says Michael Wolter, WCG Managing Director. “And we passionately embrace diversity in both gender equality and culture.”
We agree with Wallace and DeVita in that “the gender equality in the workplace is no longer a topic among leadership teams and HR departments. Together, we must all take action. By inspiring conversations, professional development, and cultural change, we have the opportunity to create a springboard for our employees, colleagues, and bosses — of all genders — to reach higher.”
“Generation Xs and Ys - we need your energy!” called Anne-Marie Rice in her speech yesterday. “Do what it takes to be the leader and the challenger!”
Anne-Marie emphasised that despite our progress in the workforce “women are not [and should not be seen as] a threat!”
Very often, events like the International Women’s Day where women come together to celebrate are taken in the very wrong way. “We are not here for a fight”, remember, “but for a dance. And we are here to stay.”
“Opportunities for development and growth are always there… and the more we meet them together and with humour, the more we live and lead in positive ways, the more places we will get at the decision-making tables [and do better together].”
“Things are not changed but they are changing!”