Embracing equity – how can we fight unfairness and discrimination as business leaders

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day in the calendar that I have always cared deeply about for many reasons. I have experienced gender discrimination first-hand several times. At times it has bruised me and left deep wounds.

When I was told that I couldn’t have my corporate job when becoming a new mother as apparently, I wouldn’t be able to handle it (“How could a new mother manage a demanding career as well?”), the devastation at the injustice ran deep and didn’t leave me for years. The silver lining is that I went on to start my own business – I celebrate 15 years of being in business this month. That is another reason why IWD 2023 is so important to me – it coincides with a major milestone for me as businesswoman. Experiencing gender discrimination lit a fire in my belly to move on and do amazing things. This has shaped my career to date.

In short, I feel very passionate about IWD and what it represents. So, I always make the time to sit, reflect and think about what else I can do to create a more equal world.

My personal experiences have driven me to try and make a difference, whether big or small, so that my two beautiful daughters face a different future – a more equitable one.

This year’s IWD theme is “Embrace Equity” and it a theme that is very near and dear to me. It speaks of building a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

When we speak about gender equality, we also must recognise that as women, we come in different shapes and sizes, and we want to make sure that achieving equality extends to all women – regardless of race, religion or other differences.

I have recently experienced something deeply personal that is connected to this year’s theme, and while I was initially hesitant to share it because of how close it is to my heart, I’ve decided I ought to because it is important and relevant.

Only last month, my younger daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic bone condition that has affected her growth; as a result she is of short stature. She was told that her growth plates had closed and that she would be her current height as an adult (4 feet 7 inches). We have been on a journey of grief and acceptance ever since.

Witnessing her worries and concerns is heart-breaking, as you can imagine. She is worried about all sorts of things, including not being able to walk into a clothes shop and buy normal adult clothes, or buy shoes off the rack. The fact that people always look at her and talk about her height, or comment about how small she is. Will that impact her ability to find her dream job in the future? Will she be further discriminated against because not only she is a female, but a very petite one?

Creating a more equitable and inclusive world means driving gender parity, but within that also making sure that it is for all women. It needs to be inclusive and for all. We need to work harder at this moving forward as I hear too many stories where discrimination is still very real and present and cuts across not only gender but other minorities too.

A recent hire of mine told me about her experience of going for job interviews and how a ‘very Australian’ PR company made comments about her ethnicity and said that she wasn’t Australian enough to work with them. She also experienced a prospective male employer trying to hit on her through the interview process. I was shocked to hear about these experiences. Maybe I shouldn’t be

but 16 years on from my upsetting experiences, clearly the needle hasn’t moved enough, if these are the experiences of young women.

As business leaders, now more than ever we must commit to taking action to promote equality and inclusion in our workplace and beyond. Let’s not just talk about it. Let’s act on it.

I will continue to fight, to apply this in my own business and work so that at least I know that I am creating an environment that promotes inclusion and gives everyone a fair go. I have also taken action to call out discriminative behaviour with clients and partners too, as we need to call out wrong behaviour and not stand for it.

Let’s not be having these same conversations in 15 years’ time. Here is to a more equitable future for all.