Step up, Speak Up And Give Each Other A Hand Up – International Women’s Day 2018
Spanning different generations we often have interesting discussions about our every day experiences as a woman - especially as we mark 100 years since some women could vote and the ongoing roar of the #MeToo campaign amongst many others campaigns striving for equality for women.
As you can imagine there are many different views, different realities and different needs but our shared support for one another makes a positive difference.
If one of us is having a bad day, there is always someone who takes the time to chat over a cup of tea or coffee, someone who will say a kind word or offer good advice and support and more often than not a cwtsh!
We encourage each other to speak up, step up and give each other a hand up when we most need it.
It is about empowering each other as women to be heard which is as every bit as important in our collective #PushforProgress
Clare Johnson, Stakeholder Officer
I was born in Cardiff in 1945. I came from a traditional middle class Welsh family. My mother was a graduate but as soon as she married she gave up work to devote herself to her husband, a medical consultant, and to raising a family. Post-war austerity gave way to the 1960s counter culture and brought rapid social change. My parents’ expectations for me were similar to theirs – I would get a degree, marry, have children and stop work. I had other ideas.
I did get a degree (in French) but I wanted independence and adventure. In 1968 I went to live in Montreal, travelled in South Africa and Africa for three months, then married an anthropologist, had children, and travelled some more. I always worked.
I didn’t have a career as much as interesting jobs – in Kuwait bilingual secretary to the Belgian Ambassador, in Cairo administrator for Oxfam and the Canadian International Development Research Centre, in London (and by now a single mother to two small boys) registrar of the Association School of Architecture Graduate School and then PA to the Director of the Overseas Development Institute.
I returned to Wales in 1996 after thirty years away and threw myself into work as administrator at the Institute of Welsh Affairs, then Cynnal Cymru and since 2016 for Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.
I’m 72 but still enjoying working and being in the company of younger people and don’t intend to stop anytime soon. Coming into work every day is what keeps me young at heart.
My life outside work is equally important – I belong to a running club, cycling club and a choir.
Looking back there were hard times but it’s all been worth it. I have fulfilled my own expectations. I had adventures, I’ve always been – and still am – an independent woman and I’m still living life to the full.
Helen Verity, Director of Finance and Corporate Governance
I grew up in a valley’s town in a working class family. My father and grandfather worked in the steel industry and my grandmother and other women in my family got married young and become housewives. My mother did initially work in a shop before she got married but happily became a housewife once she had children.
As a young girl I was praised and encouraged by my family, in particular, my Dad, my school and I felt that society in general supported my ambitions as a young woman to live an independent life and go to university and pursue a career.
I was the first to attend university from my family and my main aim was to widen my horizons and have a career. I did not see juggling family and work as a barrier, and I was very clear that my family was always first and foremost in my life not my career.
Interestingly, what was really important to me when I started working was my wish to be surrounded by female managers and directors, I needed and wanted to see women in positions of superiority.
What I experienced and liked about working with women was that they brought a pragmatic common sense approach to the work place. They were also good examples for me of women of striving for that work life-balance.
As my career progressed, I progressed my thinking and came to realise that what was really important to me was a sense of well-being and a sense of purpose, that I was contributing to making a difference to public life.
I never thought I could become a Director of Finance, but with the support of women and men I have worked with, in particular, Sophie Howe and Ian Summers I have climbed over those hurdles to get to where I am today.
What I enjoy about our office is seeing women doing a variety of roles with well-being at it’s heart.
Abby Dickinson, Digital Media Assistant
I’ve grown up surrounded by strong women.
My mum, a single mum of three and in my eyes everything a woman should be… Fierce, strong, independent and has the best laugh you will ever hear. My Nan, a woman who represented herself through her divorce to a Judge with great success and my sisters who support and encourage me in every decision I make.
Inspired by them, I felt like I could conquer the world when I left for University. It didn’t take long before I had my first real experience of gender inequality, at a journalism networking event. I heard members of the media offering my male colleagues industry experience, and in the same breath telling me that the best way to get into journalism was to make a good cup of tea. It was 2016.
Working with the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales has been a breath of fresh air. I was overwhelmed by the inspiring women I was working with. The Commissioner, a super woman in her own right as the mother of five children, my director who had a career in journalism despite it being a ‘man’s world’, colleagues who had made their mark on the world despite it not being in their favour.
I have learnt so much from the women who surround me, hearing more about their stories as movements such as Times Up and #MeToo swarmed the headlines. Understanding that their struggles have paved the way for my peers and I to have successful careers is something that I will always be thankful for.
As the next generation, and generations to come, we have a duty to continue pressing for progress. To make the most out of every opportunity previous generations have fought for us to have and to shout when thing aren’t right.
The future is not about empowering women to have a voice. We have voices, we just need to be heard.