Women’s Day 2021, “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”, is all about celebrating female leaders around the world who #ChooseToChallenge the status quo and their efforts in shaping a more equal future. It’s been a year for Global Female Leaders. The pandemic proved the power and effectiveness of female leadership in successfully managing a crisis, and has also given a lot of women the opportunity to practice their skills and talents or discover a new one.
With every aspect of our lives being shifted online, countless women found a platform and were motivated to start their own ventures from home. With online forums and networking pages coming up, they also came forth to share their experiences, now with a wider audience, helping motivate others to do the same. With that in mind this year has highlighted women leaders, their grit, determination and successes in overcoming challenges.
Watching women dominate the global stage made a lot of young girls feel empowered, but there are also instances of everyday empowerment that we often overlook or fail to acknowledge. In light of that, we wanted to talk to a few creatives and entrepreneurs who are Designing their Dream, and asked them to sit back, relax and think of individual instances of everyday empowerment.
Everyone has their own definition of empowerment and unique experiences that make them feel empowered everyday. While for some it’s completing a project and receiving positive feedback from clients, others find the little things empowering, for instance when they check off their daily to-do list. To be very honest, seeing a completely crossed out list of tasks at the end of the day is a reward in itself!
For a lot of female creatives, empowerment comes from watching their penciled down drawings and ideas take form. Most women also find it empowering when they are able to help someone grow and learn or impact their lives in a generally positive way.
"Working in the sustainable fashion industry gives me a sense of purpose and empowerment because I know I'm working towards something that benefits more than just me." - Ishita Wadhwa, Founder and Designer, Alt Aesthetic
Most importantly, the sheer joy of being able to express their creativity everyday is empowering in itself!
Taking risks, facing new challenges and embracing new opportunities are some great ways to give oneself a boost of confidence and overcome self doubt. While we’re sharing instances of everyday empowerment, we also wanted to share everyday challenges faced by female creatives. Being newcomers in the industry, and having started our studio amidst the pandemic, we understand the need of having to talk to someone who's been there, done that. Sometimes it helps to know you’re not alone and a whole lot of others are sharing similar experiences.
Besides preconceived notions and biased perceptions, there’s a lot more that we women face at work. Being in the interior/ architecture industry, some of the most common experiences are of construction sites being largely dominated by men who are unable to take orders from a woman. Similarly for set designers and other female crew on set, there are seldom clean washrooms and other basic amenities. There is also no dearth of condescending comments from vendors, contractors and often clients. Moreover, contractors find it difficult to accept any form of criticism or feedback on projects that you have conceptualised.
In addition to being a woman, if you’re a young woman, just starting out in the industry, your knowledge and capabilities are constantly questioned and being taken seriously becomes a challenge in itself. A lot of women have had their ideas brushed over simply because of their age and gender. Assertiveness is seen as rudeness and vendors find it completely acceptable to ignore your decisions, and talk you down.
While the challenges might be countless, it’s always helpful to learn from others’ experiences on how to face them better and come out stronger. We received some great insights from women who have faced some of these challenges at work and wanted to make sure they reached you. The most important thing is to always, always, always stand your ground. You need to have confidence in your work, your ideas and most importantly, in yourself. Eventually, this confidence will reflect on to others and your voice will be heard.
Another key thing is to live up to commitments: commitments made to clients, projects and even yourself. It will not only leave a positive impression on others, but like we mentioned earlier, it’ll make you feel empowered. Never forget to love what you do and enjoy yourself to the fullest while you’re at it. Don’t be afraid to experiment, trial and error will eventually get you there. And lastly, it might sound a little redundant but, know your worth! Never let others’ opinions or comments bring you down. And while it may often be overlooked, take care of your mental health. Try not to let yourself get overwhelmed with stress or negative feedback. One thing that always helps is to have a strong support system, be it at work or at home. For those who don’t have either of those, it’s important to build community support for women.
We asked these women about how they would like to be supported and what we as women can do for each other. The one thing highlighted by most was to promote and share each other's work. Those who are in a position of influence can help give a platform and highlight the work of those who aren’t. Support, be it moral or tangible is always welcome!
"I think we work better by building each other up." - Saniya Khanna, Co-founder, Akiva Clothing
The need for more forums, networking events and platforms was also identified to build community support for women. Collaborations are also a great way to support each other. A lot of home grown and small businesses are women led and it really helps to support them rather than running to big corporations. And lastly, always try and give honest feedback and don’t be afraid to share your experiences, good or bad, for you never know whom you might end up helping.
Wishing all the ladies out there a Happy International Women’s Day and a big thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts and experiences with us!