Acknowledging the Past, Challenging the Present and Shaping the Future
Women’s history month is a time to reminisce about the great women and their achievements that have paved the way for gender equality. If not for their perseverance and determination, many of us women would still not have the right to vote, have access to education or own property. Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, and Marie Curie- just to name a few- were extraordinary females figures who changed the world and inspired generations to come. These prominent women of the past should be celebrated but at the same time we must not forget about the remarkable women of today who positively impact our daily lives. Yes, I am impressed by Greta Thunberg’s fearless activism, and I also look up to Malala Yousafzi’s tireless fight for girls’ education, but the female leaders who inspire me every day and every month of the year are the people close to me who challenge the status quo successfully. These powerful women include my mother, who climbed the corporate ladder while parenting, and my best friend who started her own interior design business.
As gender inequalities continue to persist in leadership positions in all areas across the world, it is not only important to address the challenges faced by female leaders but also discuss solutions and provide support to overcome them. To learn more about the current issues women still face in the workplace, we asked some of our female colleagues at Brunel and some of the specialists we work with about their own experiences and what changes they would like to see in the future to #breakthebias.
Juggling between Career and Motherhood
“Balancing work and family are not an easy task”, says Nicole Kirleis, Head of global Marketing & Communication, “and working with young parents in my team who face the challenge of juggling family responsibilities with a corporate career has been one of the most valuable lessons for me as a leader.” She further tells us about a recent conversation she had with one of her female team members: “I was asked if it was still possible for her to achieve her career ambitions after returning from parental leave and working on a part-time basis. The fact that she asked this question demonstrates clearly that we have not reached the goal of living and working in a world of equality. Performance, quality, skill, and determination are the ingredients that power a successful career and not the number of work hours."
"Here at Brunel, we value every employee equally, irrelevant of whether they work part-time or full-time”. Buket Cordan, Branch Office Manager, notes that a woman shouldn’t have to choose between a career and family as she considers parenting to be a joint effort that involves teamwork. Nonetheless, Buket also observes a change of direction in modern parenting styles: “I am pleased that fathers are also starting to take parental leave”, she tells us.
But the question remains: how can women overcome their fear of gender discrimination in the workplace and reach leadership positions? Nicole Kirleis advises the following to women in business: “Stay focused on your goals and communicate aspirations clearly. Don’t shy away from making your accomplishments visible and most importantly, never be afraid to ask for support to achieve your goals. Requesting support is a not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”
A lack of Representation
Having women in leadership positions is more important than ever as our perspective is shaped by what we see around us. Unfortunately, there is still a fundamental lack of women in leadership roles which is problematic since they are needed to empower and guide the next generation of aspiring women. While gender equity in the workplace is not a reality yet, Stella Di Girolamo, a Document Control Coordinator, remarks that over the years she has witnessed an increased number of women in managerial roles compared to the time when she first started her career. Nonetheless, Tatiana Vilarinho, a Hydrogen Technology Lead, notes that the higher she has advanced in her career, the less women she encounters in similar postitions: “Seeing women in managerial positions is improving, but when it comes to the technical side of my job, a lot of the time, I am still the only woman in the room.” Looking ahead, Hiroko Yanase, Business Support Manager, would like to see more women in management positions and an increased effort from companies to close the leadership gender gap within their organization.
For Brunel, building a diverse and inclusive workplace remains a constant priority and involves creating workplaces where women not only thrive but also get the support, flexibility, and mentorship that they need to succeed. In the end, Brunel is all about connecting specialists to pioneering projects, regardless of gender and origin.