We spoke to our programme manager for supply chain, Pilar Rodriguez, for International Women’s Day.
Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
International Women’s Day brings the opportunity to reiterate that women’s rights are still continuously being violated. Things have not yet changed. For me, it’s not a day for celebration, it’s a day to advocate for our rights and equality. Women have the right to be safe; safe from domestic violence, from sexual abuse and murder at the hands of men. It is a sad but true fact that at least 125 women have been killed in the UK since Sarah Everard was kidnapped and murdered around a year ago. The real numbers are probably much higher, but again the news has moved on and the uncomfortable truth is once more forgotten. Moreover, it is estimated than one in eight of all female suicides and suicide attempts in the UK are due to domestic violence and abuse. I think it’s a day for all of us to reflect on these facts. What are we doing wrong as a society for this violence against women to continue to happen? I think it was Albert Einstein who said, “The true definition of madness is repeating the same action, over and over, hoping for a different result.”
Are there any women who have inspired you, whether personally or professionally? What impact have they and other role models had on you?
Many women have inspired me personally, but the two who have inspired me the most are my mother and my sister. They instilled in me resilience, perseverance, strength, and forgiveness. My female friends also continue to be a great source of inspiration to me. I see them juggling jobs and families, trying to keep everyone happy, everyone together. They are the real “Wonder Women” who don’t make the headlines or get to be the hero of their own blockbuster movie. Their generosity, selflessness, “onwards and upwards” attitude is remarkable, and they are authentic pillars of strength!
Throughout your career, how have you been impacted by the representation of women in your sector/area of work?
There is an imbalance of power at work that affects not just the sectors where women are less represented, but in many others too. Senior roles are still predominantly occupied by men, which influences workplace cultures. Traditionally organisations have been structured in a hierarchical way (vertically), and the women who have made it the top have to adhere to this culture where decisions are made at the top. It is not just a question of getting more women into senior roles and ensuring that there is not a gender gap; I think we should move towards a more collaborative approach with a more equal (horizontal structure), where senior people can be challenged and where all voices are equally heard.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in the workplace and what – or who – has helped you to overcome them?
You go through different challenges as you progress through your career. At the start of it, as a young female, I have been sexually harassed by men on some occasions and heard many inappropriate sexist comments throughout my career at work. Women also are constantly judged by their looks whereas men are not. Then, when women grow older, you become invisible in many areas and work sometimes is one of them. I think middle-aged women and particularly working women in their late 50s for example, are underrepresented in the imagery used on company websites and social media channels.
The emotional support I have had from my female friends and my own strength has helped me to get through these challenges. Also, what now seems very inappropriate behaviour, 30 years ago, when I was a young girl, was seen as normal, so one grew up thinking that you just have to put up with it. Thankfully, in the last few years you can see a change in society and in the workplace.
What can men do to better support women at work?
Many men are still oblivious to the discrimination that we endure. It is difficult for them to understand something that they have never experienced themselves. That is not to say that they do not have a responsibility to become aware of these issues. The first step is to recognise there is such a thing as unconscious bias towards women and sexism within the workplace. They can listen to women more, talk to women in their lives (mothers, partners, friends, sisters), observe behaviours at work, learn about gender bias, speak out when this happens, and talk about these issues with their male friends and family. For those who have sons, start educating them from an early age on what it means to be equal and to have mutual respect.