In Finland (where I'm originally from), all kids go outside on a break at school. It's usually already quite chilly in October so hats are compulsory and teachers supervise to ensure rules are being followed rigorously. It was a surprisingly warm autumn day early October in 1981 and the sun was shining. I felt wronged to have to put on a hat, and decided to do something about it.
The process was cumbersome in those days. I had my mother type a letter with a typewriter and my dad to make copies at work. The 'non-hat-wearing passports' got quickly distributed at school and the next day many children presented a document declaring that they didn't have to wear a hat until it got cold. Signed by one of the parents it announced that the child had enough understanding when to put a hat on. Oh boy was I in deep trouble!
I was only 11 years old back then, but to this day I'm proud of that day. I didn't change the world or end poverty, but I stood up, raised my voice and did something to improve my situation and that of those around me. I didn't take circumstances as given, I wanted to challenge things.
I wanted to share my childhood memory today, on the International Women's Day. This memory was one element in me that inspired us to start the DrivenWoman network. The idea of proactivity is a corner stone of what we do.
Without proactivity women will never be equal.
To celebrate this important day of equality, I wanted to write about DrivenWoman's role in the wider arena of women's empowerment and feminism.
We believe that women should pick up their own reins and start pushing themselves forward. Yes the world is still very unequal in many places and there's a lot to be fixed! The workplace runs on men's rules. Women are not represented on the board level as they should. Women leave the tech industry in droves.
I'm so happy that things are slowly changing thanks to many wonderful organisations and individuals who fight for women's voice to be heard and educate organisations and communities to minimise prejudice and sexism. I'd like to introduce you to the ones we've have had a pleasure to be in contact with, either in person or via Twitter.
'Take the Lead Women' is an organisation that prepares, develops and inspires women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.
'30% Club' aims to have 30% women on FTSE-100 boards by end 2015.
'Gender Economics Lab' builds gender diversity capability within organisations interested in attracting and retaining the very best talent.
We work with a bunch of wonderful, empowered women who are on the same mission. They help women take their equal place within the organisations and take charge of their own wealth and confidence.
'Voice At The Table' helps companies and the women who work there liberate untapped talent by empowering women to take the next step without fear, which builds their confidence and strengthens their voice at the table.
'Wealthy Woman' aims to build a community of 10,000 wealthy women. Founded by Terhi Majasalmi, she helps women change their attitude and learn how to improve their personal finances, and even reach financial independence.
'Roxanne Hobbs' is on a mission to transform the workplace via inclusivity. She believes women have their own natural feminine style and works with women to help them identify this authentic voice and make a step change in their careers.
'Be Dynamic Coaching' works with both individuals and organisations to help women increase their self confidence and walk a little taller.
Most women's networks and forums generally focus on building your career within the male dominated corporate environment and fighting to change it.
At DrivenWoman, we want to take a proactive approach here and now, regardless of the unfairness of the circumstances we face.
Rather than waiting for the world to change we want to challenge women to see how they can change themselves.
What can you do for yourself, right now? What does success truly look like for you? How can you start improving your skills and confidence? What small steps can you take every day to start moving towards the kind of environment you want for yourself?
For us the first step on the road to equality is not to be against anyone (the system, men, society etc..). It's about empowering ourselves to take the time to know what we want and then act on it.
All of these campaigns such as 'He For She' or 'Ban Bossy' are very important in raising awareness and changing the everyday sexism culture we still live in. Government initiatives for helping women start up businesses is fantastic. The discussion and facilitation of change is paramount but nothing will change unless we women take a chance and change. It's us who need to go an grasp the opportunity.
DrivenWoman's mission is to build a global network where women can explore what success means to them both in life and in career and proactively make things happen.
It is a honest and friendly forum where women can be proactive about their own success. Women overcome fear of failure and everyday obstacles with the help and support of other like-minded women. It is a safety net and a team of your own cheerleaders that will push you to your goals. It's a 'personal trainer' that helps you to implement those little everyday changes that you know in your heart has to be done but are often the most challenging. It provides accountability and structure for your journey.
A driven woman will not blame the circumstances and the imperfections of the universe but she will do her best within the current structures or she will start creating her own environment. If the corporate culture doesn't understand her talent, she will seek to change her career or build something of her own. She will use the resources she has now and work hard to build more resources. She will take small steps towards a bigger goal and educate herself with new skills along the way.
Driven woman is ready to challenge her current status and strive to build something that's better suited for her as a whole. She wants to live a fulfilling life and be happy, not only with her career but also with her family life relationships and within herself.
So while we wait for the structures and corporate culture to change we will not stand still. No board room quota or a government grant will guarantee us success. It is us women who have to build our own self confidence and be proactive to grasp the opportunities of success that are now offered to us in this increasingly changing world.
I'm so happy that I haven't lost that 11 year old girl in me who's ready to put her hand up and change things. I want to make her even stronger and silence any voices of self-doubt. And I know that together we can make ourselves stronger and find a way to get through the difficulties.
Join us celebrating The International Women's Day and promise yourself to make your journey a more proactive one. What small things can you start changing today that will make you happier and thus more equal in your life?