International Women's Day 2020: Helen Howard

IWD2020: Helen Howard

Natalie Rosenberg International Women's Day

We are proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2020. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.

We interviewed our very own Helen Howard, Executive Director. 

#IWD2020  #EachforEqual


The theme for IWD2020 is #EachforEqual. Have you experienced gender stereotypes/gender bias in a professional context? If so, how have you been able to challenge this?

There are different expectations on women in the workplace than there are for men. When a woman expresses her opinion forcefully, she is seen as disruptive and aggressive, whereas when a man does the same, he's seen as a leader. Many people still hold to the maxim: "Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman." It's not just men who have this opinion, many women are as intolerant of women who step outside that expectation than men are. As a woman who isn't meek and mild, I've had many comments about how 'scary' I am, which is another way of saying, "You're not behaving the way we want you to behave." I have challenged this simply by being successful and authentic. When people see that you're not afraid to walk your own path, regardless of what they think of you, and that way is working, they feel less entitled to try and put you back into a gender stereotyped box.

What does equality in the workplace look like for you?

Equality in the workplace is when women have an proportionate share of the decision-making authority. If they make up fifty per cent of the workforce, they should be fifty per cent of the executive team. There are plenty of competent women that can be promoted into these positions, but men are still too protective of their 'old boys clubs' to let them in. Instead, they make excuses about why women can't operate on that level (they take time out to have children, they're not the 'right fit' etc). There will be no equality in the workplace until women are driving decisions and shaping strategy on an equal footing with men. 

How do you think parental leave should be approached in 2020?

If society believes that people should have children, then they should support people in having children. It takes a huge toll on a woman to bear a child and as men are not capable of doing it, then they should accept that women need time to recover and they should be paid for this time off. Men also deserve time to bond with their child, so they should not be penalized for choosing to do so. I believe that women should have a specific period of paid time off, and then should be able to choose to take longer off unpaid and return into the same role. This is the norm for many countries in Europe but sadly, not here in the United States. 


Please note that all commentary and opinions provided are those of the individual, and not the organisation/company they are employed by.