To mark the eve of International Women’s Day 2019, CareerCentral launched, for the first time on campus, an all-day event, which went by the name of #SheCan.

Supported by companies such as PwC, Kier and Save the Children, the series of  skills sessions and workshops which took place during the day were aimed exclusively for female students to help develop skills in communication, networking as well as building an effective personal brand. The key word arising from the whole day seemed to be ‘confidence’.

Speaking in the networking event at the end of the day, which was open to all genders, Chantal Galvin, Freelance Digital Project Manager, who graduated from UEA with a BA in English Literature and Philosophy in 2010 shared, ‘Confidence is the single biggest weapon for what you are capable of achieving. You are your biggest critic.’

Meanwhile, Sarah Logan, also a UEA alumna and highly skilled media professional, with over 19 years of experience spanning publishing, sales, marketing and workforce development, believes in challenging modesty norms. ‘It’s not bragging if it is based on fact.’ And surely, that’s exactly it? In fact, she seemed to hit the nail on the head when suggesting that, at least for the most part, it is the ‘fear of failure [in] not going to meet expectations.’

More importantly, one has to ask themselves: whose expectations? Your employer’s? Society’s? Is it not the one person who matters most in any workforce setting or situation: yourself?

Karen Jones CBE and Chancellor of UEA, who delivered the keynote speech said ‘The best thing is admitting failure.’ That’s where most of what we call ‘personal development’ tends to come from, right? Realising and admitting when we’ve gone wrong and learning how to  overcome our challenges, not to mention pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the stories of women who have been excelling in their differing industries, from the charitable sector to food retail, and it is inspiring and reassuring to hear that their careers have very much been non-linear as some might not often expect. In any case, leaving school and working in the same job role for your entire working life is a thing of the past and not my ideal way of spending close to – if not over – 90,000 hours of my working life. And reassuringly enough, I’ve been told that it’s absolutely fine to pursue several different careers. A woman can be a mother as well as an entrepreneur, a writer as well as an activist, and anything and everything else under the sun.

Indeed, International Women’s Day does still tend to divide opinion, just like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day among other days of celebration. In one sense, yes it does celebrate the achievements made by women as well as highlighting the expanding opportunities available to women in industries previously perceived to be male-dominated, from media to STEM, but it also perpetuates the challenges that still remain. For instance, if we are simply bringing women into the workforce to fill quotas, then this surely still rings alarm bells. Rather, when applying for jobs which were traditionally male-dominated, we should have the confidence to brag more about what we can contribute and remember all of our achievements. Women are prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty to get to where we want to go, be who we want to be, and do what we want to do.  

As Jones put it at the end of her speech: ‘She Can. We can. We will. We are.’


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