When I found out that this year’s International Women’s Day theme was #ChooseToChallenge, not only was I extremely excited to write for the Like Minded Female Network, but I also hoped that everyone would feel the sense of urgency that I felt deep inside.
It felt as if everyone, both men and women, we're called to take a stand. Not choosing to challenge is ultimately taking a stand. It is also accepting that we are potentially making a decision for the next generation, and sometimes for the worst.
As Michelle Obama would say “we can all be role models, you are always in someone’s eyesight”.
With 57 million children in the world out of school (more than half being girls), with less than 30% of women benefiting from post-partum care in undeveloped countries (versus 90% in the wealthiest ones) and with women representing 80% of the people displaced in this world…the real question is where should I start?
First, define what impact you want to have…
I am not talking ‘calling’ here or ‘purpose’. It is much simpler than that. I am talking passion, I am talking finding ‘a cause’ dear to your heart, you could be proud of if you contributed to it. To make a difference you need to be determined, you cannot be hesitant about what sets your soul on fire.
Here is where you need to start…
1. First, define what matters most to you. It can be something or someone: the environment, your family, your city, animals… Write it down!
2. Then write down, ‘in a better world’ what this thing would look like. Eg: if you are passionate about the environment, you might wish that ocean were less polluted.
3. Finally, write down what difference you would like to make, in a perfect world what would your contribution look like. You can write big and small actions without prioritising them at first. Eg: if you are passionate about the environment=> you could choose to better recycle, buy refillable products for your household, join a local association that cleans up beaches/ oceans nearby your home or even raise awareness in your community by joining organisations like Greenpeace….
Remember there is not such a thing as a small cause. What is a big deal to me, might not be your #ChooseToChallenge. It is about STARTING TODAY, STARTING NOW and NEVER doubting your ability to make an impact. Needless to say, that if you are part of the Like Minded Female Network, you already know that your power is in the collective.
Then challenge yourself
Once you have defined what you want to do, you will need to do two things.
First, set your own parameters: the time you wish to dedicate to that cause and then the amount of money you might want to spend towards it (it can be zero). When it comes to time, organise yourself by allocating a slot (per day/ week/ month) in your diary. Set up an alarm if you need to, and make it fun. Eg: playlist to walk to the association headquarters, using a fun notepad to write what you are learning about the cause…
Secondly, change your mindset from “I wish I could do this” or “How much difference can one person really make?” to “I CAN make a difference. Why not me? Why not now?”.
We all have biases when it comes to our abilities; because at some point we have been boxed up or made to believe that we were not capable of big things (at school, at work…). Forget about the hearsay, you got this!
And when it gets hard to support the cause you have chosen, because ultimately you are changing the wires in your head and habits (which sometimes have there for years), remember the difference you make by supporting that organisation/ charity/ community. Eg: the ocean might be clearer thanks to you, which means kids get to swim in a cleaner ocean.
When I first considered mentoring women after being passionate about gender equality since I turned 13, I remember questioning my abilities to help others access senior leadership positions. And then I realised that I had a responsibility and owed it to my younger self. If I could help at least one woman by sharing some of my life lessons, then I would have made a difference and made the world a better place for her and that was worth my time.
#ChooseToChallenge is about changing systemic issues AND challenging our mindset. To change the things around us, we must acknowledge that we all have room to grow to contribute to the greater good.
Ready? Now let’s challenge them
If you #ChooseToChallenge people’s opinions so they support you with a cause dear to your heart, prepare yourself for difficult conversations. Before going into a ‘challenging’ conversation think about three things 1/ the objective of the conversation 2/ the desired outcome 3/ the potential objections.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it is their decision to use or not the data and facts you provide them with. Though at times it can be disheartening, these conversations raise awareness and sometimes, further down the line, change the narrative for the best. So, arm yourself with patience and learn to be a good listener. You will probably have to repeat yourself and refine your ‘story’ to make it simple, just like an elevator pitch. After all, Rome was not built in a day…
Say you are passionate and educated about gender equality it is up to you as a Line Manager, colleague, sister, friend to create moments and platforms for all womxn to be heard and celebrated. Eg: you can buddy up with a junior at university if you are a senior to them, you can create a mentoring program within your company, you can train up a newcomer in your team at work, you can buy books for your friends’ kids (boy or girl) that celebrate ALL of us…
And remember, you do not have to choose one cause, you can give time to some and money to others. You can choose to support certain causes this year and others next year… As usual, I will leave you with a quote from a woman who has changed history because she saw life as a marathon not a sprint
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
This blog contribution was made by Gaelle Couberes.
Gaelle is originally from France though a Londoner at heart, who believes in the power of sisterhood; championing both diversity & inclusion and mental health. Gaelle works in the beauty industry as a senior innovation manager, taking pride in being a content creator and a mentor.
In 2020, Gaelle became a mentor for the LMF mentoring programme and in 2021 is crafting content for the blog.
Stay tuned for her regular blogs in English and French.
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The LMFnetwork is a global social enterprise (not for profit) focused on empowering, enabling & educating womxn and marginalised groups into tech, entrepreneurship & digital. We specialise in designing and delivering accessible programmes and supporting a global community. We’ve gone from a brunch club to a social good brand based on what the community wanted. We are a real community run by real people.