On the week that saw Muirfield Golf Club finally open its membership to women and the celebrations surrounding International Women's Day last week it's been a month where gender equality has been high on the agenda.
I was lucky enough to attend the Management Today ‘Inspiring Women In Business’ conference in Edinburgh last week; and in many of the brilliant speakers’ repertoires it stood out to me just how much some things have changed. I think most of us today would be shocked at being given a desk outside the rest of your team’s office just because you were female – even though you were doing exactly the same job because that was ‘where the women sat’ (Sky’s Karen Stilman recalling her first STEM role as a graduate).
Having often been sceptical of these events before, I was both inspired and touched by the (at times) raw emotion and brutal honesty of the speakers. From very different industries, backgrounds, career paths, ethnic backgrounds, family situations and of course personalities, what struck me most was this undercurrent of strength through vulnerability amongst the way the speakers spoke and handled their interviews. There were also some common themes which emerged time and time again.
For me there was real value in hearing a range of views (at many times conflicting!); in debating the issues openly and honestly, and in hearing a real range of different experiences. The format created a uniquely safe space and I found myself having real and in depth conversations with delegates and speakers alike throughout the day as we all reflected on some of the topics covered.
It set out to inspire; and for me the tone of the day was summed up by the inspiring bravery of Emma Lawton. She’s a Creative Director who was diagnosed with Parkinsons at just 29. For many reasons her story really touched me. Not just her courage in speaking about living with such a devastating diagnosis; but her determination to battle the symptoms to keep working and the ingenuity and support of the many people who have helped her do this. She spoke eloquently about the value of being open and honest with those around you at work when dealing with the really tough things which can suddenly happen in any of our lives (male and female alike). That there is no right thing to say but that there is such value in simply asking how it is going today. One uplifting highlight was the fantastic creation of bespoke wearable tech to help her write and draw again despite the tremors – you can watch the full film here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38208814.