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International Women’s Day

A question often asked of successful women is ‘How did you get where you are today?’ ‘How did you do it?’ ‘Was it harder for you?’ And the answer is frequently along these lines….

Ignore the fact you are a woman. You are not in a different category. You can do whatever a man can do and achieve the same and if not- more. This is exactly what the successful women in our society do. The same mind set, determination and ambition brings far reaching results in all walks of life.

International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements. Never before have women had such choice. From our grandmother’s perspective, we have come so far with the roles and positions women have achieved over the last 100 years.

Sadly this cannot be said for women worldwide. Many have a long way to go to catch up with their emancipated sisters, but without a doubt, changes will come. Today let us remember them and do what we can to enable the changes that still need to happen.

Let’s concentrate for the moment, on those parts of the world where women have achieved great things, where we are leaders, where we are part of an integrated society and have the freedom of choice.

Although women’s positions in politics and board rooms are not in perfect equality, we must view it in its historical context. Girls growing up in the 1950’s might have been encouraged to learn short hand or work in a shop, if they worked at all before they married. By the 1960’s not only had hem lines risen, but girls had set their sights higher in the job market. Today’s girls and young women have the freedom to pursue the career of their choice from Prime minister to pilot, brain surgeon to engineer. Women make up half the population so we must never forget the importance of strength in our numbers. Total equality is well within reach, and, compared to our grandmothers, it has never been a better time to be a woman!

Women have come so far up the ladder of achievement that we have a distinct advantage today – we are as smart as men, if not smarter. We have the ability to multi task, prioritise, and juggle. We are able to use both left and right sides of our brain to analyse situations and resolve problems. We are able to be tough and gentle, to use both the feminine and masculine attributes and we are not afraid to ask for help or directions. We often have greater communication skills, empathy and loyalty within the sisterhood. We can and do use all the tools in our armoury to our advantage.

We cannot however, achieve equality if we bleat about how life is unfair, that we deserve special treatment or should be given a job because we are women. Today’s educated and utterly capable young women get the job because they are as qualified as any man. We need only to look at how many women today are at the top of all professions and carving out a path for generations to come.

Successful women in politics are clever, if not cleverer than their male counterparts – did Margret Thatcher or Angela Merkel allow themselves to be held back by their gender? Did they mope about life being unfair or about being treated differently? Thatcher was driven by her ambition and paved the way for generations of women in the political world. Christine Lagarde did not become one of the most powerful women in the world by focussing on how biased life is, nor did she feel disadvantaged by the elegant cut of her suits or long legs. These women put on their power suits and lipstick and reached the pinnacle of their respective careers because they were great, because they were fearless and determined, irrespective of their gender.

The 21st century Western workplace is now almost stacked in favour of women. Never before have women been able to command such power in fabulous shoes and a great outfit. Something The Queen, Teresa May and Karen Brady know how to make work for them.

Fellow women, we need not dumb ourselves down for fear of offending the male ego. We can be excellent at whatever we do and empower ourselves and each other. Where men once used the pin stripe suit and bowler hat as symbols of their success, let us embrace the visual impact of the power dress, lipstick and a good bra. It is no longer about having to use our sexuality and feminine wiles to get to the top but more about asserting ourselves and celebrating because we are at the top.

When my mother launched her Lingerie business some fifty years ago, certain female journalists accused her of pandering to male stereotypes, the truth was in fact the exact opposite. Janet Reger, was about liberating women to make their own choices. To look fabulous dressed or undressed, because you chose to, not because a man told you to. Janet believed that all women should have the choice to feel sultry, glamorous, even a little seductive. To Janet, the notion of Women’s Liberation was not about burning your bra, but about buying yourself the best bra you could afford. For my mother, being liberated meant, earning her own salary, making her own decisions and wearing beautiful lingerie.

My mother was a pioneer amongst business women of the era. Today in every board room across the western world, there is a woman wearing not only heels and a great suit but probably a gorgeous and well-constructed bra; does this make her a traitor to the sister-hood? No, this makes her the truly emancipated warrior woman she is, using all the assets of femininity to her advantage while being the professional equal to her male counterpart.

On this International Women’s Day, let us be profoundly grateful and recognise how much we have achieved. Let us appreciate the efforts and sacrifices made by our grandmothers and mothers and remember not all women are as lucky as we are.

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