Women's Day Interview- Claire MacNamee
1. What does the slogan, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” mean for you in your work life? This year’s International Women’s Day slogan calls us to be conscious in terms of inclusive design and approaches towards innovation. How many times have mass market products been originated, designed and delivered without an inclusive group of contributors at the design table? Without a diverse blend of voices, organisations face blind spots and risk costly blunders. The power of multiple points of view fosters innovation as colleagues are opened to viewing the same challenge through multiple lenses, ensuring a better understanding and more informed decision making. For me, working in a large organization in the midst of a large programme of change, this slogan serves as a timely reminder to ensure that our design and delivery teams are diverse and inclusive. We talk a lot about race and gender inclusion, I would also like to shine a light on inclusion of a variety of ages, cultural backgrounds, alternative personalities and thought styles, ideologies and gender identities.
2. What barriers have you faced, as a women, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them? I can’t say that my gender has been a considered barrier in my career, it has, however, impacted the journey along the way. In terms of career progression, there are particular challenges for women who choose to have children whilst managing busy careers. These include, loss of job and promotional opportunities, experience years and development opportunities whilst on maternity leave as well as the loss of flexibility to extend oneself beyond standard hours upon return to work.
Other challenges faced by women who have children can be restricted availability to opt-in to career progression opportunities upon return to work. Whilst thankfully many fathers take a more active role in domestic duties at home than in the past, research shows that women still maintain the larger share of duties and childcare responsibilities. The responsibility for being at the door of the crèche, childminder or childcare provider by a certain time each day impacts many women’s consideration of future roles, career changes and company moves.
Also your priorities change when you become a parent, so readjusting to the workplace when you return from maternity leave can take some time. Coming back to work can be a shock to the system after spending so much time one to one with your child. My own experience was initially feeling a little left out upon my return, as I was unaware of things my teammates were referring to and also as team dynamics had naturally changed over time. It also takes a little time to regain your self-confidence in the workplace. I think it takes 12 months to adjust to coming back to work alongside getting used to juggling work with all that comes with parenthood.
To answer your question, I cannot honestly say that I have overcome all of the challenges but I guess I’ve learned better ways to manage the competing demands. But we are human and we all get tired too. I’ve often stood over my kitchen hob at 10pm at night cooking the next day’s dinner for my kids to eat while I’m at work thinking that there must be an easier way! I have learned however, that it’s completely okay to find that juggle tough. Tomorrow is always another day ….
3. What does the idea of power mean to you? When we talk about power we often refer to the cliché of a person of great charisma or presence. Whilst those characteristics are attractive and admirable I believe that true power comes from within. Know who you are, what your drivers are, what your values are, what you will and will not accept and hold those principles with unapologetic confidence. When we do not compromise who we truly are, especially in the face of challenge or adversity, this is where we each find our own authentic presence and power.
4. How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does it mean to you? As humans we are intrinsically tribal. There is a comforting acceptance that comes from intense feelings of common identity. It’s a feature of human evolution that has existed since the beginning of time. When we look back at history, it was unfortunately mostly written by men, about men, for men. These men airbrushed many of the incredible contributions of women to different fields as well as their significant impacts on the world. If we look at the evolution of women’s role in society and the emergence of women from a history of oppression and inequality towards an emerging era of equality, never has it been more important for women to create a space to elevate other members of our ‘tribe’. We have a lot of lost time to make up for and still a long way to go. We can lift others up in so many simple ways, by being positive and bringing positive energy to others, by helping other women grow in confidence by encouraging others with sincerity, by sharing your knowledge and helping others to grow, by giving fair recognition and by celebrating the successes or wins of other women.
5. On International Women's Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers? The most important message that I would like to send out to young women is to believe in yourself and all of your incredible abilities. One of the barriers that we must endeavor to support young females in overcoming is an acute lack of self-confidence that is more present in females than in males. Remember: “There are people less qualified than you, doing things you want to do, because they believe in themselves and take action”. And finally, don’t ever, ever, ever give up. You will get there, but only if you keep going.