What does it mean to me to be a young woman in 2018? Celebrating International Women's Day
Particularly in the cultural climate that we live in, I feel this year, International Women’s Day takes on even more significance. I knew I wanted to write something today, but I struggled with what I could write that was heartfelt and wasn’t a cliche.
I started to think about why the notion of seeing women empowered has always been important to me. I trace it back to my childhood - seeing my mum, my grandma, my aunties - all incredibly inspiring women encourage me consistently to be the best version of myself. I also look back at my education - going to the first all girls school in the country where instilled in us was the perspective that not only was our gender not an obstacle to achieving success, but also the power of sisterhood.
In a time where understanding one’s identity is so important, I wanted to reflect on what being a young woman means to me in 2018. It means something different than when I were growing up and I’m sure as I continue to grow and transition through other seasons of life, the definition of womanhood will yet develop.
IT MEANS TO HAVE A VOICE
Meghan Markle (love her!) said something recently. In our world today, it’s not about women finding our voice - for we have always had one; but rather, it’s about fostering environments where our voice can be heard.
Whether it be in the Boardroom, in the classroom, in our families or in our communities, we have to use our voices. We have to use our voices to share our stories, to share our perspectives and to speak up for what is right and what is true.
While movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have often put the spotlight on women in the public life, for those of us who are everyday ordinary women, it might not be in those areas, but in others where we see injustices, to be a woman means to use our voice to speak up.
IT MEANS TO HAVE A FREEDOM TO SEIZE OPPORTUNITIES AND CREATE A FUTURE
Although there is so much uncertainty in our world today, one thing that is incredible, are the opportunities we have to shape and create our present and futures. More than any generation before us, whether it be our careers, pursuing our passions, creating networks - there is so much at our disposal.
When we look at previous generations whose careers and life partners and essentially a road map of life created for them, where we are now - is not something to take for granted.
When we harness our gifts of creative thinking, of partnerships, of mentorships, for me being a young woman means knowing that so many aspects of my life are down to my control and initiative.
IT MEANS TO HAVE THE PATIENCE TO KNOW THAT LIFE IS ABOUT GROWTH
I love social media but sometimes I think it creates a false narrative. We see people's end results but not their journey. Equally, when we see someone make a mistake - it amplifies it without the grace for redemption.
The older I get, I'm learning to embrace my imperfections. I'm learning to be less harsh on myself (and others) about making mistakes. I'm learning that ALL of us are a work in progress and that is ok!
Someone once said to me that our 20s are the time to make mistakes and understand who we are, our 30s are to start to embrace our true identity and in our 40s we really start to flourish and I hope that's true!
My encouragement to all of us is to stop striving for perfection but rather progress. Stop expecting to get from A-Z with no mishaps. When mistakes are made, use them as opportunities to pause, reflect and let them spur us on to do better next time. For if we can't make mistakes when we're young, when can we?
IT MEANS TO KNOW THAT TRULY SUPPORTING OTHERS WON'T DETRACT FROM OUR OWN ACHIEVEMENTS
Going to an all girls school in many ways was a double-edge sword. We were taught to aim high and never let our gender stop us achieving what we wanted. On the flip side, it sometimes fostered competition.
We live in a time where empowering female quotes trend on social media, where companies are being forced to put female inclusion and equality at the top of their agenda, but yet in so many ways it can be easy to compare.
The older I get, the more I realise there really is room at every level for ALL of us to thrive. We don't need to compare, copy or tear down each other to realise our own version of success. I say that, from personal experience knowing it's not easy and it's easier said than done but it's something I believe we have to be intentional about.
Ways we can do this can be from supporting (with our coins!) female entrepreneurs, taking time out to brainstorm and encourage our girlfriends in their own dreams or being intentional in the workplace in speaking well of our female colleagues. There are so many ways and I think it's an area where actions really speak louder than words.
IT MEANS HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO EMBRACE BEING A MULTI-FACETED BEING
The age old conundrum - can I have it all? is something I think many of us as women struggle with in particular. As I get to a stage of becoming a wife, and I pray in the future a mother, I do this balancing it with being an entrepreneur, a friend, a daughter, a leader and so on.
To me, being a young woman means working out what success looks like for me. It means working out a life of balance where I can embrace my areas of passion and priority - and do so without feeling guilty!
If I could sum up in 3 words what to me in 2018 being a young woman means? It means to be gracious, to be passionate and to be driven. I hope that however you've celebrated this incredible day, you've felt uplifted, inspired and motivated to keep being the phenomenal woman you already are. And more than anything, let's remember that we win when we all win so let's keep supporting and encouraging each other!
Love, Ruth x