What does International Women's Day mean to you?
We catch up with three female members of the Medichecks leadership team and ask them some questions about IWD.
Happy International Women's Day! Today is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
This year, the IWD theme is #ChooseToChallenge. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
To celebrate this year's IWD, we wanted to let our employees share what IWD means to them. Watch the video here to see some of the responses we received.
We also caught up with three female members of the Medichecks leadership team; Helen Marsden, our founder, Amanda Howard, our Chief Commercial Officer and Victoria Holden, our Head of People and Customer Service and asked them some questions about IWD.
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
Amanda Howard - "A chance to remember all those who fought for the things we take for granted such as being able to vote. It also gives us a chance to remember that the battles are still not won worldwide or even in this country. For example, there is still a gender pay gap."
Helen Marsden – "I like to think about what more I can be doing as a female leader and business founder to improve a lot of the women who work for us as well as the thousands of women who rely on Medichecks to help them monitor conditions which often affect more women than men."
Victoria Holden – "I'm a firm believer in equality for everyone – we are all born equals. As a woman, I want to have equal rights, but this does not mean that I don't recognise and celebrate what is different and unique about being a woman."
What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
Helen Marsden – "I first started work in the City in early 1980 as a graduate trainee. I entered a male-dominated world where the vast majority of women were in support roles. Although the behaviour of some men in the office wouldn't be tolerated nowadays, I can't honestly say that I felt that my gender was a barrier to me making progress. If anything, the barriers I felt about some things were entirely in my head. I worried for ages about when was the right time to have a baby, knowing that only a handful of women in the City at the time had had children. I felt that I needed to have been at work for years to have "earned" the time off to have a child. I returned to work only three months after giving birth because I was so worried about my job security.
My fears were very probably unfounded - the firm I worked for at the time was supportive and generous to me, but there wasn't a proper maternity policy in place which might have eased my fears."
Amanda Howard - "It still amazes me how some people see a fifty-year-old woman and a marketer and make assumptions that I don't understand the technology, and it's almost a 'don't worry about how it works' attitude.
I've been fortunate to have strong female role models in some of my workplaces and have received support/belief from both genders. However, I've also experienced times when men have bullied me, and I’ve had to fight and challenge things such as pornography in the workplace and childcare support issues.
I'm lucky in having a supportive partner and family who have enabled me to balance being a mum and having a career."
Victoria Holden – "I had some poor advice early on in my leadership career that I should be less 'girly'. This translated into being more serious, more focused, more professional – obviously not traits a female could possess? The same school of thought probably led Margaret Thatcher to have a voice coach to make her voice sound more masculine! This advice didn't sit with my values and beliefs about honesty and being me. I wanted to achieve success by being me, not someone else, and that includes the fact that I am a woman."
Why is it important that businesses acknowledge International Women's Day?
Amanda Howard - "To recognise that the world isn't currently equal and to ensure that we, as an organisation, are doing all we can to ensure we create equality of opportunity for everyone."
Victoria Holden – "Because we are not there yet. We've come a long way, but there's a way to go. This last year's events and working from home have continued to break down the barriers that stopped people from being themselves at work -working at home has supported the 'authentic self' think piece. Casual sexism still exists. Women are still too afraid to talk candidly about menopause, periods or that they might want to start a family. There are still male-dominated industries and male-dominated leadership teams and male-dominated politics. We've made huge strides, but we still have work to do. And that's just in this country – across the world, there are still parts of the world where women are treated as lesser beings and don't have the same rights as their male counterparts. We need to talk about it if we are going to change it."
Helen Marsden – "Because we need to show women that we are great places to work. This means that we can compete and attract the right talent and create a working environment that recognises and supports our female staff's skills and talents. For the younger generation, working for an organisation that shares its values is increasingly important. I think that all our colleagues, male or female, would like to think they worked for a company that respected and celebrated everyone's contribution and created a fair and equal working environment."
How is Medichecks developing its supports for its female leaders?
Victoria Holden – "Medichecks already has a strong female leadership (more females than males in manager positions), so we are starting from a strong place. This is a space we are looking to do more with now that we have a dedicated People function in the business. One idea, driven by our team, is to have quarterly women meetups. It would be great to get some more ideas from our team on what they want to see and do in this space."
Helen Marsden – "As a business, we're growing fast, and our team is scaling. We have women in leadership positions throughout the company. In fact, in our leadership team, we have more women than men. As we grow and develop our people strategy, supporting women is high on our agenda. We've recently strengthened our maternity policy and will be reviewing all our policies to take into consideration some of the issues, like female health and childcare, that can make it difficult for women to progress their careers."
Amanda Howard - "We are a company founded by a woman, and we have strong female leaders at all levels of the organisations. As an SME, we are looking at how we develop ways of working – remote, flexible, hybrid, and development programmes that enable our people to grow as the business does. We are looking at what support we should offer around menopause and fertility, and we support all of our team with free blood testing."
What advice would you give a young woman thinking about starting a career in your field?
Amanda Howard – "Embrace technology and data, don't be afraid to be scared, be curious and continue to learn."
Helen Marsden – "I would encourage younger women to think about careers in technology. Designing and building products for women by women is, to me, a huge opportunity to solve some of the health inequalities that women still face."
Victoria Holden – "Be you - sure, you will change along the way as you grow and develop, but don't change who you are fundamentally – your morals, values and beliefs. Be ambitious: if it's possible for someone else, it’s possible for you. Get involved kitchen-sink style: network, webinars, newsletters. Get a mentor… if your company doesn’t run a mentor scheme (coming soon for Medichecks!), then see what is on offer from outside sources."
This year's IWD theme is #ChooseToChallenge; how will you help forge a gender-equal world?
Helen Marsden – "I think Medichecks has a great record for female leadership, but I still see gender bias in some of our roles. I think we need to challenge ourselves about whether our thinking is outdated and whether when we expect to see a man in the room, there is a woman who could do the job as well, if not better."
Amanda Howard – "By choosing to lead as a woman and recognising the strengths that you bring when your values are authentic, and you believe in them. By refusing to accept that there is nothing, I can't achieve and continue supporting women at all stages of their career.
Having struggled with endometriosis for many years before having a hysterectomy, I want to see how we can support women through what are often debilitating and un-talked about conditions as well as support for issues such as fertility and menopause."
Victoria Holden – "By making sure that here at Medichecks we have everything in place to support this – inclusion for everyone – challenging behaviours and ideas that don't meet this standard – and creating a workplace where everyone is equal and respects one another. It would be great to then look outside of the business at how we can share this."
Everyone, everywhere, can get involved with IWD. Join us in promoting IWD on social media by sharing how you will help forge a gender-equal world using #IWD2021 and #ChooseToChallenge.