International Women’s Day (IWD) first took place in 1911 and was supported by over a million people. Today, it’s marked across the globe as a celebration of women’s achievements and a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
The world has certainly changed a lot in the 110 years since IWD began. However, there is much more to be done to forge an equal world. That’s why this year’s IWD theme is #ChoosetoChallenge, because a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
To mark the day, we asked some of our female leaders at Colt for their thoughts on IWD and the importance of representation, inspiration and challenging gender stereotypes in making positive change. Here, Francesca and Maria share their views.
Francesca Serravalle, Emerging Technology Director
As a woman do you feel you had extra challenges on your path to your current career?
We all know that telco is a male dominate world; the statistics tell us so even though things are changing. Personally, I never really saw this as a particular challenge and I’ve always been able to grow my career and raise my profile. I was often the only woman in the room for meetings, but I just accepted that this was the status quo. Equally, I took it for granted that my role model was a male figure and that I had to show more knowledge and skillset than male counterparts did to feel valued. Over time my awareness of the gender salary pay gap grew and that certainly created frustration. It’s great to see that companies, industry and society as a whole are addressing this matter and the issue of inequality as a whole.
The biggest challenge I’ve experienced was becoming a mum and trying to strike a ‘work-life balance’. Even though the company I was working for at the time gave me all the flexibility I needed, eventually I found out the balance was a myth – I would often find myself writing emails throughout the night after having breastfed my daughter. On the other hand, I think that pressure of having to keep up with both the worlds of home and work created stamina and focus which helped my career.
How can we inspire young woman and girls to get into the tech sector?
Having role models is a great way to inspire and we need them everywhere; in individual companies, in the telco industry and in STEM more widely. Discussing the role and representation of women in the industry is also important to create awareness and confidence. From supporting initiatives and events that recognise women’s contributions to technology, to running open days that give girls an insight into working in the industry, there are lots of ways we can continue the conversation and inspire the next generation.
Maria Bines – Operational Innovation Director
Why do you think it’s still important to celebrate IWD?
Sharing stories of women’s triumphs and creating action to improve women’s lives has come a long way, but there’s so much more to do. International Women’s Day creates a platform to share more wonderful stories in the news and at home.
What impact can women have in high profile roles in the tech sectors?
A woman in a ‘high profile’ position in the tech sector will get a lot of attention and publicity. It also means her behaviour may be modelled by others around her. She can set a tone and influence a culture inside and outside an organisation. By being in a high profile role in a tech sector, she can put her knowledge and experience at the forefront of solution design. Imagine, what an opportunity to positively influence the world’s view of women and their importance to society, just through an app we create!
What one thing can we do to “challenge” in 2021?
We all get very comfortable with how things work, what people expect of you and what you expect of yourself. What 2020 showed us is that social norms and 9-5 jobs in the office are no longer ‘normal’. Next time you feel a little guilty when you have to reschedule a meeting while working from home to make time to take care of yourself and family, I challenge you to re-consider why you feel guilty. Say to yourself, ‘No, I don’t feel guilty about putting myself and family first, and my company will get the best of me at a time when I am able to focus.’ We have an opportunity to redefine a ‘normal working day’ for future women, so be part of the change!