• Mary McGuire

What I choose to challenge: Why we need to level the playing field for women leaders


International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality. The theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. So let’s all #ChooseToChallenge.

Gender inequality in the workplace is a lived reality for millions of women across the world and on International Women’s day it’s worth highlighting the issues. I for one, have spent most of my career simply accepting the status quo and sometimes losing my voice and my path along the way.

Now, my main mission is to support gender equity across all levels of leadership, as I believe it will lead to a more balanced and considerate society for everyone. Women may be the sharp end of the wedge when it comes to creating true diversity across business, but it allows for us to appreciate diversity in all its forms. We might start with being open to accepting gender equality as an important development in organisations, but that is not where it will end.

Apart from the more obvious way that gender inequality shows up in terms of seniority and pay levels, there are many subtle ways that it can manifest as well. For example meetings – one of the most frequent events in modern organisations are the place where gender power plays are more evident. Studies have shown that women get less air-time in meetings, are more likely to be interrupted and are less likely to be asked for their opinions in comparison to their male counterparts. These interplays are often subtle and difficult to spot, yet they have shown up across all industries and geographies. No industry or geography appears immune to the unconscious bias towards men as leaders and decision makers.

Sexism does not flow one way, not is it a simple matter of the ‘battle of the sexes’ we are often taught. Women can also judge other women just as harshly than their male counterparts.

International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the gender issues that are at play and take positive actions to address it. Women can support other women, especially as career guides and mentors. Male leaders have important role to play in being active and vocal allies. Finding ways that they can show their support and champion the female parity agenda. We all have a role to play, so what can you do today to make your voice heard and support the vision of creating an equal future for all.? What do you choose to challenge today?


My second book: The Female Edge: Redefining Leadership in the Tech Industry will be due out later in the year. In addition, my team provide a range of bespoke female leaders development and coaching programs to level the organisational playing field and help women to achieve the career ambitions through their own authentic actions. Please do get in touch if you are looking for high calibre programs to support your female leaders.


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