March 8th, 2021 is International Women’s Day, an occasion that we like to mark at Focus7. In previous years, the women in the company have written about personal challenges, personal achievements, female role models and so on.
This year, I have been asked to offer my personal perspective, and I am a man! More than that, I am the only man in a company with 11 women.
But this is not some sort of Charlie’s Angels scenario – there is a very good reason we are structured as we are, and I will tell you why before the end of this blog.
Focus7 is a company that was founded in 2015 by 3 people, two women (Vida and Leona) and me.
At that time, we had all had long careers and achieved relative success. For us, starting Focus7 was an opportunity to do something different, to create a business that was more than just a commercial enterprise. We wanted a business built upon values and purpose, of which we, our employees, suppliers and customers would be proud, that would create and leave a legacy.
At the top of the list was a fundamental belief in fairness, in treating people equally and giving opportunity to all.
When I see racism, religious bigotry, the denial of opportunity based on colour, birthplace or the circumstances into which people were born, I find it intolerable.
Clearly, I look from a contemporary perspective. A world based around connectivity, mobility and opportunity. A multicultural melting pot in which we have travelled, lived and worked in other countries or with people from other cultures.
120 years ago, it would have appeared very different. Taking a stand and campaigning for positive change took great courage and recognising this is why International Women’s Day is important.
International Women’s Day originated in 1911 as a way to bring women together and has been observed since. It was a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. Social unrest was rife and critical debate was occurring amongst women, whose oppression and inequality was spurring them to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change.
Women stood up in the face of adversity and fought long and hard for recognition and equal rights. There is more work to be done, particularly in parts of Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, but the objectives of generations of women, certainly in the UK and the West, have been largely accomplished.
I believe that in 2021, International Women’s Day is about celebrating their accomplishments and the equality of opportunities now available that were previously closed off.
It is about women having the right to vote, to earn equally, to have a career and a family, to serve in the Boardroom or the military, to captain an oil tanker, drive a train or fight a fire, to go into space and even the Long Room at Lords!
In the UK we have had women in the most senior and influential positions. Prime Ministers, Home Secretary, Cabinet Ministers, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force, Head of the London Fire Service, Head of the Security Services, national newspaper editors and so on. In every year since 2001, more than half of all civil servants have been women with 43% of senior civil servants being women, an increase from 17% in 1996.
Which brings me back to Focus7. I did say that I would tell you why it is that in our company we have 11 women and one man, but actually you probably don’t need me to. Hopefully, you will have worked it out, but in case you haven’t, the answer is this…
We always employ the best person for the job. It just so happens that the female candidates that we have had have been better than the males! It’s not about favouring one sex or the other, it’s about offering fairness and equality of opportunity to all.
I am very happy to celebrate the women that I work with, along with my mother, wife, daughter and numerous others who have inspired and supported me.
To them, and you, Happy International Women’s Day.
David Langdown is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Focus7, a purpose-driven, brand-led growth agency. He attained an Advanced Professional Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling and is a practicing counsellor and Member of the National Counselling Society.