This month we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th and this year’s theme is #BreakTheBias.
As a forward-thinking and supportive organisation, we’ve been chatting to some of our members to find out what breaking the bias means to them and how they’ll be celebrating #IWD2022.
In this post, our member, Lauren McWilliams shares her thoughts with us on gender bias, women in a traditionally male-led industry and what it’s like to face challenges in 2022.
Hi, I’m Lauren and I’m a photographer with my own business, For You Photography.
I haven’t always worked for myself and originally had a career in the criminal justice system where there were more men than women. Competition was incredibly high for the more senior roles and I don’t think most people were used to meeting a young, ambitious woman. I think that many of the people I worked with, including women, felt threatened by my ambition.
I was often treated as a ‘girl’ rather than as a woman and I found that many of my colleagues assumed I had no experience or right to question the way things were done. Despite my Masters degree in Criminology and my experience of working in the criminal justice system, I faced bias throughout my time there. I was told things like “If you don’t like the way things are, you can leave”, “Unfortunately, that’s how it is, how it’s always been. You can’t change it”, or “You’re so lovely, I see you more as a teacher than working here”.
Once I left the profession in 2019, I went on to share my experiences and found more and more women coming forward to say they had felt similar in previous careers. As a result, I worked with some friends to create a group that allowed women to come together to empower each other, share opportunities and learn from each other. We ran workshops and events both in person and online and formed a community of over 150 women.
Since starting up my own business I now feel more supported, encouraged and empowered than ever before. I use what I have learned to support my female clients to have the same empowerment whenever and wherever possible. I take a lot of my inspiration from my grandma. She’s a very strong woman who has always been true to herself and she says it how she sees it. She always worked in factories, in a prison and in other male-oriented industries and is so strong – she always stood up for herself no matter what bias was thrown her way.
I LOVE the #BreakTheBias theme of this year’s IWD. It’s crucial to talk about issues like bias because, as much as many of us try not to, we sometime exist in a bubble that stops us hearing about or experiencing things like bias, inequality and injustice towards women. I think IWD means that our voices as women are heard, which can hopefully lead to change.
It’s definitely crucial for women to acknowledge that they’ve been treated with bias rather than changing to accommodate how other see us. Having this theme not only educates those being biased but those who may have experienced it.
I’ll definitely be celebrating International Women’s Day – both personally and in my business. In fact, I’m going to involved in a whole week of events based around IWD and I’m really excited to be speaking as part of a panel of five inspirational women at Flamingo Heights Podcasting Studio in Newcastle. We’ll all be sharing our experiences of authenticity, challenging bias and encouraging change. On top of that, I’m also hosting my own event as a collaboration of North East female-run businesses. It will include professional make-up, drinks and a 30-minute mini brand photoshoot experience for each business owner to capture their inspirational, beautiful and creative leaders.
I’ve heard so many times that, when we start our businesses as women, we feel we have to act and look a certain way to be noticed or taken seriously. But I believe, and I support my clients in this, that authenticity is the most important and powerful approach to securing business – our clients should choose us because of our skills and experience, not because of our gender or how we look.
As Beyoncé herself said: “We need to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead.”
How will you and your business be celebrating #IWD2022 – share your plans in the comments or head over to our Facebook group to share there.