Today is International Women’s Day – a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The theme this year, #BeBoldForChange, resonates with Wolff Olins and our desire to pit creativity against the big challenges.
With all this in mind, we asked a group of millennial women across our 3 offices to share the bold changes they’d like to see help accelerate gender equality. Here’s what they had to say:
FAMILY COMES FIRST?
“While I’m extremely proud to work at an organization that participates in programs like the Pledge to Parental Leave, I’m aware that many companies across the U.S. don’t prioritize equal and fair approaches to parental leave. It’s hard to believe that in America paid maternity leave is not a legal requirement. With that said, I’d like to see companies also working towards paternity leave programs, as family structures and dynamics continue to change. We can’t assume based on historical family models that fathers be deprived of the right to spend time with their newborns. A child needs both their parents, and an equal partnership means setting up a solid foundation to parenting them.”
– Katie Banaszak, Program Manager, New York
“Unfortunately we have failed to eliminate the stigma and disadvantages that come with using maternity benefits. Being bold means redefining and reclaiming what it takes to be a working mother; because no woman should have to choose between raising a family and feeding one.”
– Chidera Ufondu, Associate Strategist and Elaine Lin, Designer, San Francisco
“I would love to see organizations take a stronger stance on work/life balance through company policies and celebrations (i.e. annual family days). Policy changes that allow for more flexible schedules and childcare options would help ensure employees have a smooth transition back to work after starting a family.”
– Liz Benson, Strategy Intern, New York
“In London, only 14% of creative directors are women. While there are many actions we can take to help increase this number, I would like to see more spaces that support female designers.
Personally, I’ll be closely involved in the launch of a Commune Club – a female-forward work and social space. Our mission is to provide the right environment for you to be your most productive, happy and authentic self. It’s entirely important to celebrate female designers and create a strong, collaborative community.”
– Erika Baltusyte, Designer, London
“I don’t understand why we keep referring to and treating women as a minority. We are not a minority and as a matter of fact, we represent half of the population. We need to start with the fundamentals and using the right language. Words not only impact how we are perceived but also how we are treated.”
– Samar Ladhib, Senior Experience Strategist, New York
“As part of my job, I often attend conferences and networking events and I have been astounded by the ratio of women to men attending. There are times I’ve been the only female in a room of over 100 people! While I’d like to see a more equal ratio at these events, I vow to do my part and use these opportunities to ensure that my voice is heard. To be bold we must be proactive contributors and challenge points of view, regardless of who is in the room.”
– Amy McRae Johnson, New Business and Marketing Manager, London
“In many ways we are conditioned to view other women as a threat or competition; as if there isn’t enough space in the world for us all to be successful. This can make us feel wary of other women and reluctant to celebrate their achievements. But do we really think trying to dim another woman’s light will make ours shine brighter?
Speak up if you witness people unfairly criticizing a woman for her accomplishments. It happens more than we think, whether it’s conscious or not.”
– Shalini de Abrew, Management Accountant, London
“What surprised me most upon graduating last year were conversations proving how distorted and overt the assessments of worth were between genders. One instance stands out in particular when two of my friends, evenly matched in credentials and applying for the same career, had a discussion with their parents about potential job options. The sister was advised to make sure her offer would allow her to comfortably support herself, while the brother was repeatedly discouraged from accepting a similarly compensated one because he shouldn’t “sell himself short.” After, my friend remarked that she had thought it odd, but probably not worth the headspace because “it’s just different for guys.”
Yes, it is, but that doesn’t mean it has to be this way. It’s so easy to just accept these inequalities as standard – indeed we’ve become so accustomed to them that they are.
But if we are to be bolder about change, we must give inequalities the headspace and the fight that they deserve. At the end of the day, the only people we are offending if we keep quiet is ourselves.
And to channel Poet and Writer Rupi Kaur:
‘What’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn?
That since day one she already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her she did not.’”
– Aimee Shah, Strategist, London
Check out our Instagram this week to see more of what women and men across our offices had to say about gender equality.