International Woman’s Day 2017

WCPT’s Director of Opportunities Nicole Cooper muses on the meaning of International Women’s Day in 2017 – both to her, and to her workplace.

It’s an important day. International Women’s Day. A day to think about how we can forge a more inclusive, gender equal world. And a day to take action in pursuit of gender parity.

This time last year I made sure our business, WCPT, made a public statement in support of International Women’s Day. In part because we are a small business with a female CEO and a brilliantly inclusive team – both the females and males. But also because we teach our students the practices of recruitment and people management, and have a responsibility to make these students aware of the magnitude of gender-based disparities that exist, particularly within the workplace.

This year, when I sat down to write our corporate statement, I was instantly aware that International Women’s Day felt markedly more important, both to me personally and to our business. And superficially I knew why – I had had a baby. WCPT has a baby. But that doesn’t make me any more or less of a woman, so I needed to unpack this feeling a little more. What else has changed?

Well, a lot. Four months of maternity leave, and a quick transition to part time work. I have cut back my fortnightly cross-continental hops between Perth and Melbourne (and my platinum frequent flyer status is close to extinction as a result). I have swapped my beautiful handbag for a beautiful nappy bag. My Linkedin networking for my mother’s group Facebook thread. And my daily interactions with inspiring clients facing challenging business problems for one little man who relies on me for everything in his world.

So much has changed. I am not more or less ‘woman’. But I understand what it means to be a woman, so much more.

I thought I had a handle on it before. I had pursued a MBA qualification and worked in male dominated industries and argued for my own equitable pay. I had been judged on my appearance and casually referred to as “that pretty young thing”. I had been asked to grab the coffee when I was qualified to run the meeting. I was deeply committed to a corporate career and very aware of the change that needed to occur if we had any hope of realising the full potential of one half of humanity.

But the experience of what it means to be a woman – that is what has changed for me. Evolved. Being a woman at home and a woman at work – the woman trying to have both and be a master at both – has taught me so much. Of what you must trade. Of the unavoidable sacrifices. I have a much clearer view of the diversely beautiful embodiments of women, and the challenges that come with each and every one.

My own pursuit of the balance of work and home has only been possible because of my workplace. I am now a remote, flexible, part-time employee. My capacity to work is enabled one hundred per cent by my incredibly accommodating employer. There would be no option for me to work without the enormous degree of flexibility that is afforded to me. The education, the training, the experience, would all be idling on the shelf. Wasting.

And it is not just my boss that makes my new way of working possible – my team have all had to adjust their ways of working to allow for me. Meetings are conducted on the hop and at limited notice. Timelines are constantly rejigged and priorities reprioritised. The degree of change in everyone’s working day has been immense.

This change was necessary for us. We knew we wanted to keep me in the business. We had no real plan of how it was going to be possible. But we approached each day with a ‘we must make this happen’ attitude, and we are making it work. We have been bold in our pursuit of this change, because we knew we really wanted it. We have learnt so much about how to be inclusive and equitable, because we have taken time to understand. And we are now acutely aware that each one of us, everywhere, is capable of making a change to accelerate gender parity and unleash the potential of women.

So it is an important day. But then – all days are important. Because change happens when we change: the way we think, the way we act and the way we value, particularly within the workplace.

Happy International Women’s Day.