Updated: Mar 10
As a female-led organisation, we are proud to support International Women’s Day 2022.
To celebrate this day, and all of the women who work for Be Enriched, and our sister organisation Brixton People’s Kitchen (BPK), our Communications Intern, Marianne, asked our incredible team a few questions concerning the position of women in the contemporary world, the challenges they have faced as a woman in the workplace, and what makes them proud to be a woman.
Talking with everyone, it was clear that the primary quality we all recognised in the contemporary woman is her strength. Almost everyone mentioned the pride they feel to be a woman, and recognised the strength and resilience women continue to draw upon as they encounter the challenges of 21st century life.
Our Wandsworth Food Partnership Lead, Ruby, emphasised that ‘without a doubt, the strongest individuals I know are all women.’ Another quality that was repeatedly praised is the versatility of women, and their ability to manage not only multiple ongoing tasks, but their competing identities and roles as woman, employee, daughter, and often wife and mother. Women have an ability to navigate the intersections of these roles and priorities, allowing them to enrich their perspectives, while bringing their natural compassion and multi-faceted natures to their work. Courtney, our Project Assistant, highlighted how she is ‘proud to be a woman who has regular monthly body changes’, whilst still managing all of the requirements of work and every-day life, and Anna, our Community Engagement Manager, pointed to the benefits of working in a female-led organisation as ‘we openly share pain killers and chocolate when our cycles sync’.
Both Faz, BPK’s Project and Communications Assistant, and Marianne pointed to the complex heritage women have overcome, and the pride we take in withstanding the pressure of the roles imposed upon us from external societal expectations. Faz explained that ‘being from a South Asian heritage, I am proud to break the stereotypes of being a woman.’ BPK’s Project Manager and Events Coordinator, Georgia, and Anna developed this further by sharing their hopes for more inclusive and accepting workplaces for women in the future. They hope for a world in which being both a mother and employee does not provoke a fear of labelling or judgement, nor does taking maternity leave inspire anxiety about compromising one’s career. Anna shared her thoughts that ‘balancing a career with children is often much more complex for women than it is for men’, and Georgia reassured her fellow woman that ‘women don’t manage their work-life balance, we boss it.’
When considering the difficulties of navigating the world of work, it became clear that there is still progress to be made regarding the dynamic between men and women in the workplace. Both Georgia and Kumiko, our Volunteer Coordinator, have faced complex difficulties as women in male-dominated careers. Whilst Kumiko commented that the opportunities she has previously had to work with male colleagues in superior positions supported her professional development, as ‘if I had not associated with them, I would never have had the chance to reach the position I am in now,’ there is of course a question to be asked concerning the development of a female modality of working; one in which women are not required to adopt masculine modes of operation and communication in order to succeed in the workplace. In addition, many of the team mentioned that they feel required to work harder and faster than their male counterparts in order to progress at the same pace, and Georgia added that ‘women are often expected to be perfect. Perfect daughters, wives, mothers. I have never been perfect, but I made sure I was better than any male that ever assumed they could overtake me on the basis of sex.’
However, our team also noted the positive changes that have impacted women’s position over recent years, as awareness for the Gender Pay Gap has risen and campaigns which target female equality and issues such as period poverty and female genital mutilations increasingly gain support. In addition, everyone felt an improvement in the available role models and precedents set for young women, as senior roles such as CEOs, Managing Directors and politicians are becoming increasingly occupied by women. Judy, our Logistics Manager noted that ‘it’s an interesting time for women in the world as more women feel the need to pursue lead roles,’ and Kumiko also commented that an increased shift towards remote and flexible working has enabled the promotion of women ‘who need to juggle taking care of family’.
The wisdom and poignancy of our team’s contributions made the task of reflecting their words all the more difficult for Marianne, yet this challenge was amplified further when she was faced with articulating the answers to the question: What advice would you like to give to other women? Instead of attempting to reflect their thoughts herself, she has instead left their individual answers intact, to allow their voices to shine out in support for all women, everywhere.
Kumiko: ‘Women tend to put others’ happiness first, however, we all need to learn to love ourselves and are all deserving of happiness. It is ok to voice our opinion and assert ourselves.’
Faz: ‘As women we must always empower others and break boundaries in order to thrive in male-dominated spaces. Leave a statement or leave without saying anything.’
Courtney: ‘Remember where you come from and love who you are. Women are amazing and we should never doubt ourselves or what we can achieve!’
Ruby: ‘Be aware both of what unites us as women, and what divides us. When holding discussion and making decisions on behalf of all women, make sure the voices of those from all backgrounds are included. Whilst we are all women, there is a disparity in the privilege we hold which cannot be ignored.’
Georgia: ‘We must remember to hold each other up. Elevate each other. Encourage each other.’
Marianne: ‘There is beauty in your unique, individual way of thinking. Not fitting into patriarchal discourses is not a reflection on your ability, but rather on the way in which women are expected to mould themselves to the agendas of others. Be confident in your own voice, and what you can bring to the conversation.’