As a woman-led (not women-only) business, we at Switchboard hold International Women’s Day in high regard. We’re thriving at the intersection of two of Vancouver’s most fast-paced, dog-eat-dog industries – public relations and technology – and we’re doing it with a woman at the helm. What’s womanhood got to do with it? That’s a question of context. On one hand, we’re careful as a team and as leaders within the PR and technology spaces to not pigeonhole ourselves into roles that highlight our womanhood over our expertise and our professionalism. After all, why should female leaders in their fields be reduced to tokenistic positions at events, on panels, at meetings and in the media when their male peers are positioned simply as “leaders” universally?
On the other hand, to ignore the fact that sexism has been, and continues to be, a barrier to recognition in our area of knowledge would be unfair to the women who made great sacrifices in hopes that someday we would have an equal place at the table. It would also be unfair to other women who are currently disadvantaged by existing in a sexist world and to the women and girls who need us to trailblaze to make room for their future accomplishments. To ignore how inequality impacts us wouldn’t be truthful, and to be in the business of storytelling without being grounded in the truth erodes our ethical foundations. That being said, we have two things to say this International Women’s Day: “thank you” and “we promise.”
Thank-you to all the women who pioneered on our behalf.
Our female team members enjoy and appreciate the benefits of your hard work: we can vote in elections; we not only can have a career, we also choose from a broad range of career options; it’s not perfect, but we can challenge being paid less for work of equal value; we have places to turn if we are experiencing violence; we are no longer turned away from educational institutions; we can own property; having a child is no longer grounds for dismissal from our jobs; we can look at the boards and executive suites of businesses and see other women represented there; we are now considered “persons” under the law.
We have a long way to go, and we promise to continue fighting for the women who come after us.
We promise not to accept lower budgets than our male peers; we promise to address condescending advice; we promise to challenge sexist jokes; we promise to give women credit for women’s work and ideas; we promise to stay on top of issues and current events pertaining to women’s equality, even if those issues don’t impact us as individuals directly. Most importantly, we promise to boldly and unapologetically step up in our industry – not just as “women leaders” but as “leaders,” in hopes that someday in the near future, gendered distinctions in business will be obsolete.
Thank you to our friends, Justin Sabarre and Jae Yu, from Pushr and Kathleen Jayme for their help with this project.