International Womens Day 2021 – #ChoosetoChallenge

“I’m about to embark on a six-month secondment.”

That’s what I’ve been telling myself these last few weeks as I transition into the daunting world of parenthood. All the parents out there reading this are no doubt having a chuckle to themselves thinking I must be kidding myself if I think I’ll simply snap back into a full-fledged working professional again at the end of this “secondment”. The reality is that this is only the start of the wildest ride of my life filled with doubt, anxiety and non-stop questioning of “am I doing it right?”. I should disclose at this point, that I’m expecting twin girls (surprise!), so in fact, let’s just double the doubt, anxiety and non-stop questioning!

Given the news, it’s no surprise that International Women’s Day this year has felt more significant to me than ever before. The #IWD2021 theme is #ChooseToChallenge and it’s a topic that my partner and I have discussed in detail over the last seven months, especially when it comes to how we’ll raise our two girls. The list is long and it’s only the beginning, but here is my promise:

  • I #ChooseToChallenge the stigma of the working mum AND working dad. I’m fortunate to have a supportive partner who truly wants to balance the parenting duties with our careers and an employer who lives and breathes flexible working every day. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that already we have experienced the challenges and unhelpful comments this ideal comes with. It’s unfortunate, but research has also found the global pandemic has and will continue to cause deep long-term damage to women’s careers in particular, as we all work towards the “new normal”.
  • I #ChooseToChallenge the gender stereotypes that define what girls should wear and instead support clothing choices that are comfortable, makes them feel good about themselves and sends a message that they can be just as brave, strong and powerful as all the other kids in the playground.
  • I #ChooseToChallenge the barriers that detract girls from studying and eventually pursuing a career in STEM. Instead, we want to encourage our daughters to give all subjects a go – even the ones that seem impossible. The fact that there are great organisations like this one out there supporting STEM learning, innovation and creativity at all ages, fills me with real hope.
  • I #ChooseToChallenge the glass and bamboo ceiling that still exists in Australia and continue to advocate for more female and cultural representation in leadership positions. It’s something that is personally very important to me, to know that my daughter’s will have access to the same career opportunities they wish to pursue in their life as others around them.

There’s a lot we can all do to challenge the assumptions, preconceptions and biases that society holds about what girls and women are capable of, but it starts with us as individuals.

Whilst the events, celebrations and social media posts are important and provide much needed visibility, I’d encourage you to take the simple step of consciously reflecting on the everyday actions you could choose to take to show your support for gender equality. Whether it’s starting a conversation about the gender pay gap, speaking up when you see someone experiencing sexual harassment (Hint: don’t wait for your wife to “clarify” it for you), or simply taking the initiative to share the workload at home – it all counts.

So for this International Women’s Day, I want to know, what do you #ChooseToChallenge?

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