Since 1911, the 8th of March marks a day to celebrate the achievements of women in society, politics and economics across the globe. The UN theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world. Today, I would like to celebrate IWD by reflecting on my experiences and lessons learned in female leadership.
Rewind one year. The world was uprooted by a prickly devil named COVID-19 that shook the very foundations upon which our society is built. From denial to frustration, to acceptance and adaptation – many of us can associate with this perpetual shift in our mindsets over the past year. Yet if history has taught us anything, it is that we humans are masters of evolution.
During my first adaptation phase, back in lockdown 1.0, I started reaching out to other women working in the blockchain industry. With each new connection, I encountered a diverse set of skills and interests, alongside a set of unique challenges at the dawn of a COVID-19 world. Yet there was one thing that unified us all. And that was the comfort in the knowledge that we were not alone at the face of these new uncertainties. Enter WiBS.
Women in Blockchain & STEM (WiBS) is a community platform that I co-founded in February 2020 with friends Patricia Bentley at nChain and Maria Eugenia Lopez at Money Button Fabriik. The goal of WiBS is to empower women in tech, taking inspiration from past and present-day leaders to support them in both their professional and personal development goals.
Our first WiBS venture was a series of Female Leadership webinars. And as if by serendipity, the theme of our first episode was the very same as the theme of IWD 2021. Our humble community of women came together to discuss the economic uncertainties ahead, how these may impact our careers and professional development and ways in which we could ‘lean in’ and support others to be the best version of ourselves. We found it quite remarkable to see articles that praised female leaders for showing the best early response to the pandemic. We thought it fitting that we dedicate this special episode to the legendary June Almeida, the scientist who, in 1966, discovered the first Coronavirus.
During the webinar, an interesting observation was made on the topic of failure—the notion that most women do not feel comfortable with failure. An online survey confirmed that women tend to take less risks in their careers due to the fear of failure.
So, our second episode dived into the idea of failing successfully. In a nutshell, we learned that failure is unglamorous success: it is testing your limits and it is highly individual, while success is the act of recovering from failure.
You can’t lean in unless you know how to get back up.
Rachel Simmons, entrepreneur and leadership coach.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Holowaychuk, CMO of TAAL (CSE:TAAL | FWB:9SQ1 | OTC: TAALF), who shared her personal insights into the power of failure in the workplace as a means to identify areas of growth. Angela also touched on the importance of seeking feedback—“What’s the worst that can happen?” she asked.
This got us thinking about the notion of feedback loops and in our third episode, we explored ways to seek, give and receive feedback. We were joined by the inspirational Professor Helen Gleeson OBE, a British physicist renowned for her contributions to gender equality in academia. Helen shared her experiences of giving feedback to her students and seeking feedback from her colleagues, along with a vivid description of the toilets at Buckingham Palace (thanks Helen).
I think it is fair to claim that a strong community is one that prevails over all boundaries. An example of this was the WiBS event in China that explored gender bias in career and innovation. Organised by Lise Li at the Bitcoin Association, independently of any of the WiBS co-founders, this was a demonstration that communities can grow organically where there is a need for them. The physical or cultural boundaries between the WiBS that I encountered in Europe, South America and Asia were dissolved by a common incentive to support minority groups, such as women in technology.
Our intention with WiBS was to create a supportive community of women during COVID-19 and beyond. And while it can be difficult to find the time to work on such endeavours due to professional commitments or personal responsibilities at home, the premise of a community is to help with just that. It reminds us that we are not alone.
This is the power of a community-driven approach. When we talk about important social issues like gender equality, it can be difficult to know where to start or how to help. Yet, when the intention is there, a small action can have a much greater impact. It is these small actions that collectively pave the way to a world of gender, race, and social equality.
So, please join me in celebrating the remarkable achievements of our female colleagues and friends, sisters and mothers, neighbours and lovers on International Women’s Day 2021.
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