The past year has been challenging in ways we’ve never previously imagined. And undoubtedly, when we are challenged, we become much more alert to the pre-cursers that led to the challenge, the current effects on us, and the questions about what the future holds.
In its very essence, March is a month of change. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. And now, it’s the anniversary of a major shift in work availability and culture with Covid resulting in many jobs lost or moved to a remote model.
It is also the host month to International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th. This year, the IWD theme is “Choose to Challenge.” You may be thinking, “No thanks, I’ve had enough challenges, lately.” But my challenge to you is to shift your perspective to think about challenges from a different lens. Challenge is a call for change. It’s a call for growth and improvement.
Two years ago, I chose to accept a challenge to complete a women’s leadership program at Schneider Electric. It was a year-long program led by facilitators from the prestigious INSEAD school. The program was a catalyst for change for me. It opened my eyes to just how prevalent gender bias and inequality still are, how to recognize it in the moment, and how to respond to and challenge it. Since then, I have chosen to challenge the status quo. Every day, I choose to be aware, to be alert, and to call out gender bias and inequality when I see or experience it.
I have also chosen to challenge myself by continuing my own learning and self-study. I work to notice my own self-limiting thought patterns and actions, knowing that often those have been engrained in me because of pre-existing belief structures that I grew up with. I challenge myself not to apologize, to participate more, to speak up, to not take on tasks that are not my responsibility, to not use self-deprecating humor as a shield. I deserve to be confident in my skills and talents, which encompass but extend well beyond caretaking, organization, and empathy. Yet, at the same time, I strive to be what Brené Brown calls “whole-hearted,” to embrace the courage in vulnerability. Challenge makes you vulnerable. But it also makes you strong. Embrace challenge. Choose to challenge – yourself, others, the current norm, and the legacy it comes from.
Luckily, I work for a company that values the same things I value and embeds them into the very core of our company culture, through things like the New Ways of Working initiative which allows all employees, regardless of gender to find a better balance between life and work, breaking down gender stereotypes. In addition, their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and the core value that at Schneider Electric, we “embrace different,” has given me the confidence that I can be the true version of myself at work, while also being there for my family and a role model for my two teenage girls.
How will you choose to challenge gender bias and inequality? What steps can you take today to ensure a better future for our daughters?
Here are a few ways women can start:
- Journal about how you feel as a woman at your work. Do you feel valued? How does your experience as a woman differ from that of a man’s?
- Think about what self-limiting beliefs do you have? For example, “I am not smart enough to get that job. I am not brave enough to speak up in a meeting.” And ask yourself how gender roles and beliefs might have influenced those beliefs.
- List 3 small things you can do on a daily basis to help you combat those self-limiting beliefs.
How can you support as an ally? Try these ways to get involved:
- Ask your company what actions they are doing to reach gender balance and pay equity.
- Join a women’s leadership group, inside or outside of your company, to continue to educate yourself, find allies and mentors in your network, and learn how to navigate gender obstacles.
So, I challenge you! Post a picture with the #ChooseToChallenge post or comment something below that you #ChooseToChallenge for International Women’s Day to challenge the status quo on gender inequality.
Learn more about what we do at www.se.com/diversity
About the Author
Estelle Schweizer leads the channel strategy for North America, specifically focusing on our partner programs for electrical consulting engineers, electrical contractors, and power equipment manufacturers. She has been with Schneider Electric for over 12 years and has held various marketing and strategy roles. She recently completed the Schneider Women Leader’s program in 2021, and now serves as a mentor for this year’s participants. She is also an active participant in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion groups and leads an initiative to help colleagues find wellness in the workplace through a twice-weekly virtual Yoga at Your Desk program. Her work-life balance looks like working from home, teaching yoga classes, and helping her two teenage daughters navigate their entry into adulthood.
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