March is women’s month. Starting with Mother’s Day on the 6th and International Women’s Day on the 8th – it means that we can look forward to enjoying and participating in lots of women events. My first event was on Thursday 3rd of March when I went to Brussels to speak at the launch of the Gender Balanced Map report. The mood of the event was upbeat and lively with none of the ‘woe are we’ hand wringing but sensible talk of why gender equality is the basis of good business for everyone. This is despite statistics that there are still so few women in charge.
My speech in Brussels was premised on my belief that gender balanced businesses are good for all businesses and I explained that was why I launched the Men in Childcare Group (London) four years ago. It was interesting listening to women running big and medium sized businesses as to why inclusion and equality make good sense. Heather Roy from Eurodiaconia made the point that the power of leadership starts with small children. She notes that girls should be encouraged to feel positive about leading and taking charge and not be reduced to the stereotype of ‘bossy,’ ‘domineering;’ put downs which can have quite a deeply affecting impact. I was very familiar with this as at LEYF we distribute leadership at every level of the organisation because distributed leadership has a direct effect upon learning and organisational improvement. This starts with putting teaching and learning at the heart of the leadership to achieve what Dr. Ferre Laevers calls, ‘Leaderful Children.’
Ultimately, the issues facing everyone across all industries represented at the conference remain similar; access to finance, recruitment, retention and as I was there – social impact! So it makes sense to create an approach that addresses these.
Afterwards I ran across a freezing Brussels boulevard with a group of ‘Women in Europe Lobby’ colleagues at the launch of their excellent report .
I was very pleased to connect with my European colleagues as I am keen that someone works with us to catalogue all the European social enterprise childcare organisations. This is in line with the Europe 2020 strategy, something I am keen to see happen. I want this data so we can have a bigger social enterprise conversation around its importance to childcare and in doing so, identify the common themes about:
- ambitious pedagogy for all children (especially poor ones)
- growth and replication
- economic contribution to the local economy
- employment for men and women
- supporting their communities.
We hunkered over a Vietnamese Bowl of Soup; exchanging quips, jokes, funny stories, humour about all things women (some of which I cannot repeat here!) Women talk about lots of things and we covered politics and Brexit as well as the Womens’ Equality Party, Sandy Toskvig, Hillary versus Trump leadership, immigration, poverty, nails, face cream, motherhood, menstruation and menopause in no particular order.
On Tuesday I am giving a speech at the Generation Success Power Series – come along! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/gs-power-series-international-womens-day-special-tickets-19784695557
The Evening Standard (oracle for the commuter!) featured Annie Lennox this week (you can guess which musical link will be at the end!) She talked about the transformative power of motherhood which spurs activism – it certainly was a factor in my LEYF journey. She describes activism and campaigning especially her work on HIV / Aids, gender violence and female poverty when she says, ‘Sometimes I feel like I am shouting into the void. The struggle is to inspire not to preach.’ I wonder if that is a female response given that two significant ways which silences even the bravest of women are to be accused of preaching or of being bossy. Annie’s story about violence against women made me think of a woman I met on the train a few weeks ago. She was lost at New Cross and needed to get to Crystal Palace. It was quite late and dark but she had an interview at a local hotel. I told her to stop worrying and I would take her there. As we travelled together I found out that she had fled Afghanistan recently because of her work on gender violence. Having just finished another great book by Khaled Hosseini I did not have to work hard to imagine the scenario.
So International Women’s Day is a time to draw attention to issues which face women.
For those asking, ‘why just women, what about all the men facing violence?’ it’s true the issue of war, poverty, cruelty and violence are human rights issues but just for one day lets shout out for all those women who very often are silently bearing the brunt of inequality.