I love the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: Choose to challenge.
Challenge is a word that divides opinion. How many times have you heard: he/she needs to be more challenging or he/she is too challenging or confrontational.
I like to think of challenge as being curious to understand, of being prepared to listen with an open mind to others so that we question ourselves, and of being prepared to say how we feel and what we believe, even if it is different from those around us. This kind of challenge has the potential to open things up differently and encourage more thinking and exploring, as opposed to confrontation.
With challenge comes choice. As adults we choose how we respond to others. Not only do we choose what we will say, but also how and when we will say it.
"The thing about choice is that we often can’t clearly see what choices are available to us. Equally, our heritage means that some groups of society have more choices with possibly less consequences than others."
For some, I understand that challenge is much more of a “fight” than “intellectual curiosity”. A level playing field does not currently exist, but we can get there.
As individuals, we can choose to think differently and act differently. As business leaders we can - and I know many are - make decisive interventions to ensure we create inclusion and diversity in the workplace, stimulating curiosity by bringing in different perspectives. In doing so, the playing field will start to level off.
I must be honest, I typically shy away from marking days like this. However, I appreciate that they are necessary... at least for now. I look forward to the day they are no longer needed when we all make a conscious decision to challenge and create change as part of the norm. So let's all use the 8th of March to spend some time really challenging ourselves and others.
- Are we being curious when we listen to our colleagues' perspectives?
- Are we creating an environment that allows each of our colleagues to bring their views and thoughts to whichever table without being shut down?
- Are we challenging others behaviours to allow an inclusive workplace?
As leaders we need to be decisive and work quickly, but that can be done together in an open environment where people feel valued for what they bring. We can choose to make a difference.
Nikki Flanders, Managing Director of Energy Customer Solutions: