For most women in the U.K and Australia (and even more so in other parts of the world), the glass ceiling has definitely not broken. Most of us will spend time in our personal and professional lives being treated differently (and often more poorly), solely because of our gender. Women with low confidence can be overworked, whereas women who are deemed to be too assertive can be disliked, and face barriers to further growth in their fields.
How will we fix this problem? How can we change cultural norms that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years? I recently read ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandburg, who had some enlightening suggestions on how women can approach their professional lives, so that they can have the same career progression as men and change the balance of male/female leadership. One example of this was balancing working hard and having strong opinions, with being nice, so as to be still seen to have strong feminine traits which are likeable, and therefore promotable.
I think that one of the quickest and easiest ways for women to progress is to acknowledge prejudice that we have against each other based on our gender (and what we are culturally trained to feel), and to wholeheartedly embrace the empowerment of women around us. For me, this means women who are already leaders going out of their way to provide opportunities for other females to grow. As a volunteer with the Sophie Hayes Foundation, I believe it means working to give women who have been trafficked every opportunity to feel fulfilled within themselves and their future careers. This can be both through practical support, such as CV guidance, and being a listening ear and presence when things are not going so well.
Since I’ve been a part of the Sophie Hayes team, I’ve seen amazing support and empowerment between women. Both the volunteers and the participants of our Day46 programme sing each others’ praises and successes.
I think that with this empowerment harnessed, equality for women can and will be possible.
By Emily Banger