Another International Women’s Day has passed and across the globe women and men gathered to celebrate, listen to inspiring speakers, debate and network. If we collated all the conversations shared on the day, the themes would be quite similar.
Global parity is over 217 years away, and this number has increased over the last two years. Women are retiring into poverty due to lack of parity, and 70 per cent of women in the developing world live in poverty.
Globally, women make up just 23 per cent of national parliamentarians, 26 per cent of news media leaders, 27 per cent of judges, 15 per cent of corporate board members and 24 per cent of senior managers.
Other alarming stats include: only 2 per cent of women in Australia on the ASX board are from a culturally diverse background and one woman a week continues to be killed in Australia as a result of domestic violence. And I can continue to list the areas of inequality, but I won’t.
Invariably on IWD, men on social media ask the question: what about the men? Why is there not an international men’s day? There is... in November.
Like many of you, I returned to work motivated and inspired; however, maintaining this motivation is not easy. Upon reflection, I believe, for me, it is because I don’t feel there is enough of a shift from conversation to action, and frankly, I am tired of the conversation. We have talked enough about the same issues year on year, yet the advancements have been incremental.
So, how do we harness the inspiration and the motivation to enable us to have the courage to step up and demand change?
Holding yourself back is detrimental to your career, so you need to start influencing and controlling your career. I have learnt that just because you do a good job does not mean someone will notice.
Why are you not seeking public acknowledgement for your achievements? Or entering awards that will celebrate your success? When I won the Telstra award in 2013, I didn’t nominate myself. Because like so many women, I was waiting for all the boxes to be ticked from a career perspective. If someone had asked me exactly what these “boxes” were, I would not have had a clue.
Furthermore, who are you in business and what are you known for? Do you have gaps in your skill set that you need to close for the next role? What is your next role going to be and who do you need to connect with to get you there?
Don’t lean in. Step up and grab the opportunities with both hands and run with it. I have done that all of my career — I have asked or created the role. I work in essentially what is well known as the boy’s club. Which means I have had to work much harder to get the same recognition.
Regardless of the success in my role and my industry, I still face the same sexist, biased hurdles from 15 years ago. But I have never let this hold me back, which is why on IWD I am one of these women on stage, and I ensure I have my blogs and opinions published.
My fears, concerns and backlash are no different to yours. Many men I work with find me challenging; that is their problem, not mine. Sadly, I also know that this whole concept of standing up, asking for what you want and challenging the status quo comes at a price. You are labelled, you are overlooked for opportunities, bullied and faced with the conscious bias every day. This is tough.
Our environments are simply not conducive to ask for what we want, so we wait to be seen or heard instead of stepping up. Every year, we gather with others just like us and we listen to a handful of women who inspire us for a short time and then when we go back and nothing changes. If nothing changes then nothing changes. Isn’t insanity expecting a different result but doing nothing different?
My ask of women and men is to ensure we don’t have another year go by where not enough changes. We are all responsible for where we stand today. If we truly want to make our homes and workplaces better for our daughters and sons, then it is up to us to step up, push through the barriers and press for progress for the next generation. The time is now.
Sadhana Smiles is chief executive officer of Harcourts Victoria, the state division of one of Australia’s leading and well respected real estate brands.
She is also a popular speaker and presenter, and is regularly asked to speak at some of the industry’s most prestigious events, including ARPM, AREC, AREL, RELC, the REINSW Women’s Conference and the Harcourts Conference.
Sadhana is also a regular contributor to a number of national real estate journals and publications.