I’ve always been a supporter of International Women’s Day. As well as championing women’s continued contributions to business and society and putting a spotlight on our female leaders and achievers, it invites discussion around full gender equality in the world.

Impact of COVID on women

There’s still a long way to go to achieve true equality globally. This gap has widened further over the last year. More women have been on the Covid frontline – of the 49 million care workers in the EU who have been most exposed to the virus, around 76% are women.

Also, women are over-represented in essential services ranging from sales to childcare places, which remained open during the pandemic. In the EU, women account for 82% of all cashiers and represent 95% of domestic cleaning and home help fields.

Women also suffer higher chances of unemployment being over-represented in the main Covid-hit sectors. A calculation from Creative Equals estimates in a gender-regressive scenario in which no action is taken to counter these effects, the global GDP growth could be £1 trillion lower in 2030 than it would be if women’s unemployment simply tracked that of men in each sector.

For those employed, there are concerns about whether working from home is suitable for women or not. HBR cover this and have excellent points on what leaders can do to make remote work successful for all. I feel fortunate to be led by a family-first approach at Wow. I really like how this has translated into transparency for those who are juggling home-schooling and working especially. For me, I’ve loved the honesty, empathy, and understanding we’ve all shown for each other.

Celebrate the women surrounding us

This year, the official IWD 2021 campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge. The idea is we can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, and we can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. In light of this, I wanted to celebrate the women surrounding me who help shape me.

My Mum and Nana

My Mum and my Nana (pictured above with a very young me) have always been ones to chase their dreams and challenge the norm. My Mum – from running away from an arranged marriage in India to move to the other side of the world (New Zealand) and marry my Dad, to being able to fix anything with a great curry. In 2017, she was appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her financial literacy and interfaith relations services. She’s always excelled in her career, achieving many firsts for Indian women in New Zealand while being an incredible mother.

My Nana – her incredible strength. From being widowed young and raising three children on her own, to beating cancer multiple times, to always trying something new (she learnt to use a computer at 80 to write her memoirs). She also always led with love and accepted anyone for who they are. She’s always shown me you can fix most things with kindness, a good meal, and humour.

Cat and Michelle

Two of my best friends (pictured above) are nothing short of remarkable. Both are ambitious, career-driven, and are brilliant mothers. For me, they show beautiful transparency on being a mother, a wife, and having a career. They both also epitomise this year’s IWD theme of calling out bias and inequality – neither are afraid of standing up for what’s right.

The women I work with

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, I’m proud to be surrounded by many amazing women daily. At Wow, 75% of our managers are female, and 50% of our board is female. Over the last year especially, my admiration for them all has grown. Every one of us has had our struggles, but they always make time for others. They led with empathy, care, and kindness at their core. This can be seen in everything from our daily Slack interactions, our spontaneous acts of kindness for each other, our team get-togethers, and how much we care for our clients.

A special mention to Kelly and Hannah (pictured above with Kelly’s boys), who have instilled this in us all over the combined 23 years they’ve been at Wow. Wow, wouldn’t be Wow, without these two women.

I believe who we surround ourselves with has such an impact on who we become. I’m very blessed and grateful to be surrounded by these amazing women amongst many more.