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Sarah Shin, Chief Diversity Officer, Cloudera

This year, International Women’s Day comes at a time when our world, communities, governments, and businesses are adapting in the wake of the global pandemic. For women, this period has had the potential to be a disaster for their working careers. Women have found themselves balancing work, childcare, teaching, and being caregivers for older family members. In fact, women have become the Jill of All Trades overnight.

The added pressure of these new job roles have been unexpected and not an asked for task list. Yet, many have assumed that we, as women, will take these to-do lists in our stride. That, unfortunately, includes life partners and business owners. Nearly 70% of women say they have experienced adverse changes in their daily routines.

The juggling act that we now endure can potentially undo decades of progress for women in the workplace. But it’s not the way it should be, at all. Studies show that companies with more than 30% of female executives are more likely to outperform those companies with a lower representation. Letting years of progress unravel is simply out of the question. Women’s positions in the workplace must be put back on the top of the business agenda. 

The good news is the tide is turning. In the first week of March, for instance, it was announced that women make up a third of FTSE 350 boards in the UK.  On top of that, they are ‘twice as likely’ to lead a tech company than an FTSE 350 business. For a woman in tech, this news provides hope that the glass ceiling in this sector is finally starting to come down.

Ditching the 9 to 5

The pandemic has opened the door to a complete rewrite of the way we work. Companies should provide the resources and facilities to women to look after their children or elderly relatives and still manage their workload. 

The pandemic gave us no other ‘choice’ but to work it out. However, in doing so, it has also shown us it is possible to work differently. The traditional 9 ‘til 5 is not necessarily the best way, and working around, and with, your family commitments should not negate being able to do well in your career.

Smart companies will rise to this challenge and reimagine how their teams operate. They should provide long-overdue space for women to excel at what they do best – collaborating, communicating, and working as a team.

As 2020 proved, it no longer matters where, or to a certain extent, how you work. It is all about the quality of work and the ability to deliver results. Can you double up and job share with others? Why not? Can you work flexitime to meet your commitments? It should all be on the table for discussion. 

It is archaic to think there needs to be a clear distinction between when we work and when we become “mums”. Unsurprisingly, when given the opportunity, we can flourish at doing both. It is time to tear through convention and use the pandemic as a moment to pause and ask, ‘what’s possible now?’.

When we do, we will find that women are the power workers that we have always had, but never fully appreciated.

Let us use IWD this year to pledge, as company leaders, to do more to empower our female employees. That can only be done by allowing them into the boardroom in the first place. Whether it is a dedicated diversity and inclusion post, like mine, or wrapped into existing responsibilities does not matter. Being there and having a voice certainly does.

Happy International Women’s Day everyone.