In celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) at Alectra, two women from the Diversity & Inclusion committee, Indy Butany-DeSouza and Alona Andronikova are opening up on what IWD means to them, and how we can continue to support the #BalanceforBetter initiative.
What does International Women’s Day (IWD) mean to you and Alectra?
Indy: International Women’s Day affords us an opportunity to honour all of the women, and in fact all of the people that have fought against gender inequality. In my view, it also provides the opportunity to pause and reflect on the fact that there is still basic work to be done around the world for women to defend against discrimination and inequities particularly in education and in career opportunities. I appreciate the solidarity that IWD creates in sharing our struggles to create a better future.
At Alectra, we acknowledge the journey that women have taken, complete with the blemishes of the struggles endured and appreciate and celebrate the multiplicity of the power of the differences in each woman’s story.
Alona: International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
Where I grew up, in Eastern Europe, March 8th is a huge celebration – females of all ages receive flowers from males for being a woman. Women play important parts both inside and outside of the households as mothers, wives and professionals.
At Alectra during IWD we want to increase awareness on how IWD came about and why it is important to take a moment to recognize women and this day. There is a quote about IWD that I believe sums it up best as – “IWD is a day to continue to protest against discrimination and inequities in education, economics, and legal rights in society. It is a day to remind us to look beyond our borders, our bodies and race, and to think about how we can make future progress daily.”
The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. How do you define gender balance?
Alona: #balanceforbetter – equality
Equality for all! No matter the colour, gender, race, political views or religion believes everyone should be treated the same. My gender balanced world would be a world where all women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.
Indy: To me, gender balance is about equality. It is about having a seat at the table. It is about creating equal opportunities in all work areas and levels within an organization. However, I believe that the balance is not absolute and that, not dissimilar from work/life balance, it is a continuum; there will be times when we find that the balance is a complete equilibrium. There will be other times that the balance is more towards one end of the spectrum versus the other. That said, in an overall assessment, the result will be a true balance that creates the ‘better future reality’.
How do you support other women in your community?
Indy: I support other women in my community by modeling behaviour that helps to empower women to be their best self. I believe that is vested in striving for a continuum of balance between my work and personal life; ensuring that I make time for my family; and carving out time for self-care, whether in the form of working out or personal reflection and journaling.
I mentor young women in the sector and I also make connections with other women in our industry, not only to share experiences but to learn from others. In doing so, we ensure that we create a bigger women’s voice that resonates not only within our industry but beyond.
Alona: I support women in my community by recognizing their achievements and acknowledging their hard work. Nothing should be taken for granted as no achievement is too small. I find quite often we tend to forget to say ‘Thank you’ and ‘You did Great’. We need to empower all women – no matter the age, to spur economic growth and create a better, healthier and stronger society.
What advice would you give to the future generations entering the workforce?
Alona: Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and fail, as with every attempt you learn, grow and expand your experience. If you are thinking about something – go for it! Don’t give up as every opportunity is practice, and a road to success. Also don’t be afraid to ask, question things you don’t understand or don’t agree with.
Indy: Demand diversity of thought in your teams, because everyone thinks differently.
Also, be willing to promote others around you. That does not just mean promoting women. It is about promoting that next level of people, for example, facilitating opportunities for those that would not normally have them in front of your senior leadership.
And to women, in particular, I would say, know that there is room for more than one of us at an executive or board room table. Lift each other up.
If you could jumpstart one change, what would it be?
Indy: If there was one change that I would make, it would the way in which men refer to women. In referring to a group of women, men will use the term “girls” or “gals”. The action is well-intentioned; that is, that there is a recognition not to refer to a group of women as “guys”. However, it is one that falls flat on execution. It does not consider the recipients of the reference. Girl, or gal (which by dictionary definition is another word for girl), refers to a female under the age of 18, a child or someone who is not an adult. The label discounts women’s experience and the value that they bring to the table based on established expertise over time. We need to ensure that we use respectful language that is appropriate and inclusive and removes gender bias.