ISE Chair on International Women’s Day

Mar 5, 2020 | Sector & policy

Debs McCormack, ISE Chair and Head of Early Talent at Pinsent Masons, looks ahead to International Women’s Day as a cause for celebration in the ISE’s thriving community.

‘Woke up feelin’ like I might just run for President, even if there ain’t no precedent. Switchin’ up the messaging. I’m about to add a little oestrogen’

Lizzo’s ‘Like a Girl‘ lyrics celebrate femininity, identity and authenticity. She sings about anyone identifying as female, succeeding in a male-dominated world. And, oh how Lizzo does that with aplomb!

The phrase, ‘like a girl’ can be intended as an insult: ‘You fight/throw/cry like a girl!’ Lizzo flips that negative narrative on its head, encouraging us to interpret doing anything ‘like a girl’ as an empowering positive.

Credit where it’s due, when I told my 14-year-old daughter that I was writing a blog for International Women’s Day and thinking about inspirational females, she immediately referenced Lizzo.

A recent mother/daughter night out involved Glasgow’s O2 Academy and the force of nature that is Lizzo live. Iona said it was the best night of her life so far. She’s right. It was awesome. Lizzo’s not only a contemporary pop icon; she’s a real role model. Her music promotes self-care, independence, tolerance, empowerment and equality. Given that the theme for International Women’s Day 2020 focuses on ‘an equal world, being an enabled world’, I’d say Lizzo has her manicured finger right on the pulse.

It made me smile to recognise that my teenage daughter looks up to performers with something meaningful to say. It also encouraged me to think about the women (and men) who have inspired, supported and encouraged me, and others around them, to be better versions of ourselves. In turn, perhaps we can have that impact on the people we live, work and socialise with, creating an equal and enabled world.

Strong, independent females have been a constant source of inspiration and aspiration for me, influencing my values, education and career.

Like many of us, my mum and grandmother have been persuasive influencers, particularly because both were hard working mums, juggling multiple responsibilities.

I never truly realised how much admiration I had for these amazing women until I had to negotiate that balancing act as a working parent. You don’t need to read Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ if you’ve met my mum, Jean. She’s the only cheerleader I need, because whenever I doubt my ability, talking up what everyone else can do, Jean gently challenges me to put my best foot forward and go for it regardless. Her practical and emotional support is my bedrock.
The best bosses I’ve worked with, male and female, taught me about the benefits of being flexible with and supportive of your team. Being generous with your time, feedback and knowledge to coach and develop your colleagues instils greater loyalty, empowering us all to be better and achieve more.

In the early talent sector many of our colleagues are female. My team is no exception (BTW the boys are great too!). In my experience, the highest performing teams have a real sense of camaraderie and collegiality. Colleagues complement and play to each other’s strengths, celebrating success and providing support to boost resilience.

The women I work alongside are smart, funny and emotionally intelligent enough to know when we need a cuppa and a donut, or a gin and tonic. How wonderful it’s been to see many of those colleagues succeed at work, get married, have children – we are fortunate to be a part of that work family.

For me, ISE is another example of a community full of capable and supportive members. It’s progressive and inclusive, as it should be, if we are to role model best practice to the sectors we operate in.

Personally, ISE has provided me with an opportunity to learn from subject matter experts, build my confidence and self-belief through coaching (from a wonderful woman introduced to me through the ISE network) and be part of a gender-balanced Board of Directors who all have expertise to share in spades.

International Women’s Day should be celebrated and used as a powerful catalyst to raise awareness of global gender inequality. We have individual and collective responsibility to think about our roles in addressing those challenges.

Let’s use our ISE community to enable each other to build an equal, inclusive and by definition better world, for that next generation of talent – our daughters and sons. That’s what Lizzo wants us to do!

There are lots of ways you can engage with the ISE community from events and webinars to our WhatsApp groups and content.


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