By Michelle Clements
Group Executive, HR at rhipe Pty Ltd
At rhipe, we are taking time to reflect today on what International Women’s Day (IWD) means to each of us. To me, IWD means acknowledging the women throughout history that have paved the way, so that I and other women can achieve their ambitions in life. We live and work in that tiny, latter-day, segment of human history when equal rights and expectations are a societal norm to a much larger extent, with change occurring mainly in the last 50 to 100 years. So this is a day when I remember all women who have chosen to challenge the status quo and fight for equality rather than accept how things are. It is a day to recognise women of the past and those I know/have known personally, who have been, and are positive role models of resilience, passion and change.
Personally, I remember strong and positive females influencing in my life including my secondary school principal, Ms Hilda Pipe, who pushed boundaries as an Oxford educated (in the 40s!), career-dedicated woman. Hilda Pipe expected and accepted nothing less for her Grammar School girls than equal education and career opportunities and fervently encouraged us to pursue our ambitions. When I expressed an interest in becoming a bilingual Executive Assistant in the City, she accepted nothing less than me pursuing an Honours Degree in Modern Languages, which I did, and to follow with a strong career as a business leader in my own right. A senior female manager in London, several female colleagues (one ex-British Army Major turned soft-skills trainer) in Singapore and a resilient role model in my mother are also ever present in my mind on IWD.
I also acknowledge on this day the men in my life who have supported and encouraged me. My father (who always hoped I would follow in his footsteps), used to take me as a teenager to the male-dominated Baltic Exchange Maritime Market in the City of London (where until the 80s, the few women who attended the Market Floor were not allowed to wear trousers!) My two older brothers who encouraged me to participate in activities and ‘compete’ with them on an equal footing and the Irish HR Director, who I worked for in the UAE, who pushed me to the forefront of our Middle East people development, including in Saudi, at that time.
IWD is a day to celebrates not only the social, political, cultural and economic achievements of women but those of all diverse backgrounds, whether under-represented by culture, race or sexuality amongst other differences, who have chosen to challenge the norms and forge a merited place for themselves and theirs others in society. Choose to Challenge is about being free of stereotypes about what women’s and men’s or anyone’s roles should be and to challenge societal barriers which hold any of us back. What is more important is to embrace diverse perspectives and acknowledge that others have a different experience of the world that we can leverage and benefit from.
Lastly, IWD is a day to recognise not only what has been achieved by women so far, but what more still needs to be done.
#ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021 #rhipeteam