International Women’s Day: A Chance to Reflect

The work we do makes a real difference in the world, but how we go about it matters too. Our diversity blog series explores the ways we are striving to create a culture and environment that our people are proud to work in. In the latest post, our Chief Marketing Officer, Jennifer Locker, offers her thoughts on International Women’s Day.

Some of the best advice I received as a woman has been from my mother.

At a very early age she instilled in me two core pearls of wisdom. Firstly, that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I stayed focused on achieving it. Secondly, to not ever end up being financially dependent on a man in my relationships.

What that translated into was an ambition to find something I was passionate about that could support me well and make me independent; as well as the belief that success creates new opportunities. She and my father, who fully supported this advice, gave me the confidence that I had all the inherent intelligence and ability to tackle any challenge and that while being a woman might make it more challenging, I was smart enough and strong enough to push through.

Celebrating International Women’s Day is important to me personally, as I suspect it is for many other people around the world. It is about acknowledging the achievements of women, but it’s also a chance to reflect on my own path and how I got here, and to think about how I can help others with what I’ve learned along the way.

Looking at the world today, women have made great progress that deserves to be celebrated. However, in the spirit of my upbringing, I am focused on the next challenge, which is to overcome the obstacles that still stand in the way.

International Women’s Day plays a crucial role in sparking the right conversations about the challenges that exist and the actions that need to be taken to achieve true gender parity.

Achieving Success

Success in any profession comes in different forms and there is no right or wrong way to achieve it.

Throughout my career, there have been times when I have been faced with difficult situations and/or people. Of course, everyone faces the inevitable stresses of corporate life, but when I look back, I wonder to what extent being a woman made the journey harder.

My journey to becoming Chief Marketing Officer meant being strong and projecting confidence, seeing opportunity in change, being focused on the end goal with resiliency and determination, and not being afraid to ask for help.

What has pulled me through is remembering my basic principles: stay focused, be resilient and see change as the opportunity.

  1. Focus on impact. When someone in my team hits an obstacle, I encourage them to stop, breathe and break the problem down. Think about what is important for the business, what is important for you, and what will make the most impact. It’s easy to get bogged down by details that end up being less significant, or sticking to your original plan when there might be a better way.
  2. Embrace and be the change. Change is difficult for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. As Accuity continues to grow and the disruptive industry we work in transforms, change is one of the only constants. It can be exciting and open up brilliant new possibilities. See past the parts that scare you, focus on the positive aspects and make it your opportunity.
  3. Ask for help. I believe part of being strong and resilient is to ask for advice. When you work in a corporate environment, you are never alone; there are teams and colleagues around you who are ready and willing to support you and they can offer a valuable new perspective. Don’t be afraid to reach out, communicate with colleagues, and never see asking for help as a weakness.

Paving the Way for Parity

Diversity and gender equality is a large part of our focus and we are constantly looking for opportunities to improve representation, ensuring all our employees are supported in their careers.

There are many practical steps businesses can take to address representation. We put a lot of energy into recruiting well and sponsoring and promoting talent from within. We value people taking the time to ensure their teams are made up of a diverse range of individuals – and thoughts – and are truly representative of the wider population.

We also recently started a program to sponsor our high potential women. We consciously ask ourselves: ‘how do we make sure these women have advocates in the top executive ranks who know who they are, what they are capable of achieving, and what they aspire to?’ This program is in the early stages, but has ambitious goals and I hope the impact is ultimately felt throughout the organisation.

This year on International Women’s Day, our aim is to bring people together, stimulate new conversations, and drive positive change. We have planned a range of activities, such as live streaming a “Balance for Better” panel debate featuring representatives from across the business, and I am looking forward to taking part in this ongoing dialogue.

This blog series is another way we are opening up a dialogue. It was borne out of the realisation that our diversity is not always immediately obvious from the outside, yet it’s one of the reasons I am so glad to work at Accuity.

We are growing quickly and as we look to bring new talent into the organisation or engage with customers, we want to give greater insight into what we are most proud of: our people.

My colleagues in Evanston showing their support for International Women’s Day by striking the “Balance for Better” pose