We’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day throughout March at Capgemini, but a particular highlight came on International Women’s Day (IWD, Thursday 8 March) itself, when over 100 men and women – including local school pupils and sixth-form aged relatives of Capgemini colleagues – ventured to Holborn’s Accelerated Solutions Environment for an evening with Cindy Hoots, Global VP of IT at Unilever.
With IWD’s campaign theme of #PressforProgress at the heart of the evening, it was fantastic to see an almost even split of men and women in the audience. At the same time, with stories of harassment and inequality (including #MeToo) continuing to grow and run in the news, the evening felt especially poignant. I know I found it a challenge to look at the #PressforProgress theme and not just think of gender pay gaps and the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report telling us that gender parity is still over 200 years away.
Our facilitator Misha tackled this directly at the start of the evening: reflecting that *most* of us won’t have films made about our work for equality – but it’s worth taking a step back to reflect and realise the small, everyday actions that continue to make a difference. In the hubbub of conversation around the room, these actions ranged from volunteering at a local school, to informally mentoring a new team member and continuing to myth-bust gender stereotypes with sons and daughters. These were all brilliant examples of personally “pressing for progress,” and definitely moved the room to a positive, empowered outlook.
“Don’t count yourself out!”
The highlight of the event was a fascinating talk – full of career insights and advice – from Cindy Hoots. Cindy’s career has spanned different multinational organisations, different continents, roles, and usually in a minority: a woman in an IT role.
One of the best things about Cindy’s talk was the relatability and the pragmatism of her advice – from teaching her toddlers to help unload the dishwasher, to acknowledging her own nerves at public speaking, she was properly inspirational. I’ve collated a few of her recommendations here to share with you.
Tips and small actions for personal progress (and beyond):
- Have an advocate – whether it’s a friend, partner, family or team member – you need someone on your side who will give you courage when you can’t find it in yourself.
- Sit at the front at events – even if you’re shy, don’t give yourself the opt-out. It’s easier to speak and connect with the presenter at the front.
- If you feel uncomfortable in an open meeting or your ideas are being spoken over, get a slot on the agenda beforehand. It will give you space to talk and be heard.
- Be humble and kind (I do so love the eponymous song from TimMcGraw)
- Set boundaries about how you are willing to be treated – and call out poor behaviour. It takes courage to do this, so have confidence in yourself and use your advocate(s).
- Claim your great work with candour: e.g. “I was really pleased that X worked out” – and recognise the contributions of others.
- The world is progressing exponentially, so build learning into your daily life.
- Give up the idea that you have to be perfect in every aspect of your life, all the time – focus your energy on each part at a time.
- When opportunities arise: jump for them – and the net will appear!
The evening continued long after the Q&A session, with fervent discussions around the room – so many people were enthralled by Cindy’s authenticity and relatability. For Simon Martin, Senior PMO Manager, one idea from Cindy in particular struck a chord: “I liked the ethos of being great everyday, but not being great at everything everyday. You don’t have to strive for perfection in all areas of your life, all the time – just focus your energy on what you’re doing.”
Going back to #PressforProgress, it struck me on the train home that progress (and also time) often seems to either crawl incrementally, or leap forwards in bounds. It’s that combination of big jumps (gender pay gap legislation, going for a new job) and small, incremental changes (having a coffee with someone you usually wouldn’t, celebrating International Men’s Day within our organisation, increased awareness from retail brands) that has made the last six months feel particularly momentous and part of a tide of change.
We’re keen to harness this as we move forwards: moving the needle on inclusion through actions and achievements of all sizes: with Cindy providing a brilliant moment to reflect and discuss together. To continue this – why not ask yourself: what “jumps” or everyday actions have you taken recently that #PressforProgress? What about those taken by your team members, friends or family?
Ultimately, it’s these moments of gathering up your courage and just “going for it” plus those everyday, small actions that together, make a huge movement to press for change.