By Jenny Strachan*
In 1917, on the last Sunday in February (March 8 in the modern Gregorian calendar) thousands of women in Russia staged a war protest and strike under the banner “Bread and Peace”. Four days later the Tsar abdicated and the provisional Government gave women the right to vote.
Nearly 100 years later a group of young African and Nepalese women climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to greet the dawn of International Women’s Day 2013 and raise awareness of the UN World Food Program (WFP) in its fight against hunger. One of the young women had a personal reason for her action – she had been fed by the WFP while at school in Nepal .
The following year, another young woman, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani school girl, was awarded the Nobel peace prize for her extraordinary courage. She had defied the warnings of the Taliban in her backward tribal area and gone to school. For this she was shot in the head at point-blank range. Miraculously she survived and when she recovered, once again defied the Taliban and devoted herself to the cause of educating women in Pakistan.
International Women’s Day celebrates such acts of courage and determination by ordinary women.
The first National Women’s Day was celebrated in the United States to mark the 1908 women’s garment workers’ strike in New York where women fought for better working conditions. Two years later, a working women’s conference in Copenhagen agreed that March 8 should be declared International Women’s Day in memory of those brave Russians of 1917.
This year a woman, Hillary Clinton has the chance to run for the Democrat presidential nomination and put women’s rights at the heart of US policy. For the first time a woman has the opportunity to make it happen at the very highest level.
All around the world this year on International Women’s Day, March 8, women will celebrate their achievements while continuing to press for greater equality under the hashtag #MakeItHappen. Any woman can be a part of this.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook summed it up when she wrote: “Women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves. We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”*
It’s time to start leaning in. Here’s how:
• Pitch for the higher profile jobs and don’t be stuck in the back office doing work that nobody knows about
• Promote your successes – own them and make them visible to leadership
• Frame your accomplishments in terms of what the organisation values
• Don’t undersell your capabilities – be comfortable championing your worth
• Don’t self-select out of more demanding roles – women typically believe they are not ready unless they have 100% of the skills required – men will “give it a go” and learn on the job
• Be resilient – take risks and learn from failures
Will you #MakeItHappen on March 8th?
* Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In”, WH Allen, 2013, London
*Jenny is an award winning author and international conference presenter and trainer with over 25 years experience in the corporate sector. She has designed and delivered communication, influence, personal presence and leadership programs, and as an executive coach to facilitate change in organisations.
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