A Request On International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. A day for us to celebrate, inspire, unite. An opportunity to share stories and to build strategies that fuel courage, equality, opportunity.

Last week I spoke at Nottingham’s Women in Tech meetup. I decided to share with this group of inspiring girls and women (who are united by the mantra ‘be excellent to each other’) the things that appeared on my FFS list four years ago when I set up my business and the things that drive me now.

Then, my FFS list consisted of:

Flexibility — I want my career to inspire my daughter, not mean I never see her
Learning — too much had become predictable. Predictability stifles learning.
Progression — I wanted to progress and be promoted but there wasn’t headroom. And I didn’t want to wait.

And so I leapt. I took the step to leave a safe, secure role where I worked with some fantastic people to step into entrepreneurship. I have flexibility, more learning than I sometimes feel able to consume and I’ve created my own headroom.

I’ve learnt that if you’re a Do-er, if you make things happen, the things on your FFS list will change.

In 2016 the things on my FFS list changed quite dramatically. Fuelled by a diagnosis of dementia and cancer within my family, the reality of the new President of the United States of America, and BREXIT I feel I’ve experienced and observed extremes in compassion, empathy, collaboration, community. Things that I hold true and dear have been demonstrated in incredible ways and sadly also assaulted.

As a business owner, I find it impossible to separate the things that I’m personally passionate about from the things that my business does. One informs the other — it’s what makes our offer so authentic.

And so I’ve pivoted our strategy. All of our work now falls into three areas:

  • To solve problems that really matter
  • To create a generation of design thinkers
  • To fuel people’s creative confidence so that they can do the things they’re capable of

So what does all of this have to do with International Women’s Day? In the last eight years, I’ve been exposed personally and professionally to countless stories of women who on becoming a parent have questioned what they want and need from work. The minority of these women feel clear, confident and empowered to have this conversation with their employer in the knowledge that they will have a great conversation. But that’s the minority.

The sad truth is that for a lot of women, the expectation is that they should work as though they’re not a parent and parent as though they don’t work.

The unacceptable truth (highlighted in reports such as this from Digital Mums) is that the world of work doesn’t effectively support women who are considering what they need and want from work. And this makes me want to scream “it’s 2017 people — catch up”!!

And so, fuelled by my FFS list, we’ve decided to take the first steps to joining the conversation to help to solve this problem. We’re carrying out a piece of research to understand what it feels like to be a woman in this position and what could employers be doing more of in order to support half of their workforce. Our Creative Problem Solving experience puts us in a great position to explore this further, and we don’t want to be talking about these problems any more — we want to be working towards solving them.

So — if you’re currently on maternity leave, or have returned to work having had a child / children with a sense of needing something different (or you know a woman who sounds like this), we’d like to invite you to fill out a short survey. Because in solving problems, we know we need to start with insight from the people we’re solving problems with.

From Sarah and the team at We Are Unstuck — thank you.