Is it possible to have it all as a working woman in the 21st century?
International Women's Day is all about unity, celebration and reflection. A lot has changed over the years for women but as an empowered woman in the 21st century, life and society continue to throw challenges my way.
These are challenges I and others are expected to overcome without complaint and often without support. At the same time, the media swamps us with glamorous examples of women succeeding at ‘having it all.’
A familiar challenge for me is finding ways to balance work and caring, particularly as a carer sandwiched between caring for my parent and looking after my young children.
There is the constant round of medical appointments, school pickups, meetings, assemblies and of course school holidays to manage. As a result, I have really honed my plate spinning skills. However, what happens when one of those plates falls? A resounding crash!
I experienced this only last week, when my beautiful house of cards collapsed around my ears. It was the school holidays and my planned restful break was instead spent leaping from one crisis to another. I felt tired, frustrated and extremely guilty because I felt I was failing as a wife, friend, colleague, mother and carer.
Looking to others for inspiration
When I was younger, there weren’t many female role models I could relate too. Fortunately, that’s begun to change. We now have role models like Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama and of course Prerana Issar to take inspiration from.
To see and hear other women - particularly women from similar backgrounds - facing similar challenges and overcoming them - is truly empowering.
As a south Asian woman, I am often inundated with additional work/life challenges and expectations. As a child, I was brought up to be quiet, modest and discouraged from having any control or influence.
This contradicts some characteristics leaders are expected to show at times - being vocal, visibly owning a space, or demonstrating empowerment.
I have had to learn to navigate through very different worlds and adapt myself to a wide range of environments. This is a great skill but can also be a lonely and frustrating experience, which is why supportive and encouraging peers, managers and leaders are so important. However, the most impactful individuals to me are role models.
I always remember the amazing words of Malala when she said ‘I raise up my voice—not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard.’ This so beautifully articulates the motivation I have every day.
On International Women’s Day, I want to thank all the women who inspire me. There are so many that it would be impossible to fit them all into this blog. These are women we encounter every day, who quietly support and empower from the sidelines, giving others a platform and voice to be the best they can be. These are the women who continue to inspire me each and every day.