By Oana Emma Voinea
‘She’ leads to ‘We’: Can You help close the gender gap?
It was Mahatma Ghandi who said “be the change you want to see in the world”, words that are often quoted and have become somewhat of a cliché in today’s world. Like other, similar type quotes it has often been used without being questioned or an attempt to actually apply it. This equally applies to concepts like the ‘gender gap’, a widely used term which has gained international popularity but is rarely questioned in-depth.
Subject to growing media coverage, the gender gap has become a topic of heated debate and a steady target for women’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and feminists. Discussions about the existence of the gender gap and potential ways to minimise it have received widespread attention. However, hardly any of this is from the perspective of actions each of us can take ourselves. A question I often ask myself is how I, as a woman who is not a celebrity, or a member of a specific NGO can make a difference in this respect.
Firstly, we need to work towards achieving success in our own environment. Actively promoting change and an inclusive workplace are great initiatives and should be supported by men and women alike. However, a key element that adds credibility and helps drive the change is the recognition of ours and each others capabilities through our own successes, i.e., yours, hers, and mine. The question that then arises is ‘how am I supposed to succeed in a work environment that’s not sufficiently inclusive?’. One of the main ways is to speak about your skills and achievements. Don’t be afraid to let people know that it was you who drove the team forward, it was your effort that added value, or take credit for your role in the team’s achievement. At all times recognising the merits of your colleagues, of course. Determination and self-awareness are critical to making things happen.
Equally important is that we need to find our own voice. When was the last time you didn’t speak up to put your ideas, plans or suggestions forward just because you thought they weren’t good enough, or because someone else might disagree? Voicing our ideas places us at the forefront of a team or an organisation, and is as much part of the solution as anything else. Collaborating with men and women alike and sharing thoughts can lead to opportunities – be it making people around you aware of your career objectives, letting people know that you would like a role in a certain industry, or simply working towards a solution within a team. There’s no one wiser than all of us, so women’s voices should be part of this ‘all’.
Finally, as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. Many women are still avoiding certain professions, mainly because they are afraid it’s a man’s world. At some point, I considered applying to an Aeronautics college but was discouraged by the limited number of spaces for women. Looking back, I feel it was a missed opportunity and I should have applied but it has taught me not to shy away from pursuing my goals. As a Technology Consulting professional, I meet people working in a variety of industries and, in my opinion, as long as there is enthusiasm and an appropriate skills set, women shouldn’t be hesitant to pursue the jobs they are interested in, regardless of industry. One of the lessons I’ve learnt over the past year is that becoming really good at something is crucial to personal and professional development. Becoming known for something is easier if you do what you enjoy and, equally, enjoy what you do.
Following the words of Mahatma Ghandi quoted at the start, working towards a greater goal doesn’t require looking any further than ourselves and our own environment. Having left my native country straight after high-school, I have learnt how to pave my own way, be more self-aware and turn my goals into reality by being resilient and keen on the idea that success has no gender or nationality. As diversity is becoming the norm and the way forward both in education and in the workplace, we should start questioning ourselves whether we have done enough to achieve our dreams. Individual success fosters the idea that ‘she made it’, which, in turn, reinforces the belief that ‘we can make it’.
Oana Emma Voinea is a Technology Consulting professional and a strong believer in the power of education and diversity. Her academic background in International Relations with Economics has triggered her interest in the analysis of socio-economic problems, while living in one of the most culturally diverse cities – London – has allowed her to interact with people from a variety of countries and backgrounds on a daily basis.