by Cécile Divisionali General Manager Italy & Greece at Coty
When I was 20… Some 20 years ago, I thought International Women’s Day was a demeaning celebration. Why did we need a day for? Did we seriously had to raise awareness around women? Weren’t we 50% of the population? I could understand the World No-Tobacco Day, the World Blood Donor Day, World Teachers’ Day, Human Rights Day, World AIDS Day but Women’s day? No. I graduated in 1999, a new century was ahead of me and I was convinced that the foundations we had built post 2nd world war for women’s emancipation were strong (enough). In my eyes, everything was possible for women, it was a matter of will (and God knows that on that side he had been generous). I built that strong belief since my childhood. I’m the daughter of a working mum that raised 3 children. My dad always pushed me to outperform and always treated me in the exact same way he treated my brother (including when he told me to change by myself the 4 wheels of my car, to make sure I knew how to do). I was raised in a country where abortion was legal since 1975, women could marry who they wanted… and could divorced if they wanted to. Top Models were the new stars, Madonna had changed women’s power in the music industry, emerging markets were accelerating fast, baby boomers would soon retire liberating lots of jobs for the new generation and every month, there was a new law to ensure gender equality. So, why having a Women’s day in the 21st century?? It took me the next 20 years to understand that this strong belief I had built was a real bias in the way I was approaching life, work and people in general. A woman is by nature not a man and as a consequence, in people’s eyes, can’t behave in the same way. Sounds cliché? In 2013, I read “Lean In” from Sheryl Sandberg and that was the turning point for me: Eye opening on how women’s leadership is constantly questioned. Soothing as I could recognise certain of the challenges I had faced myself but told no one about. Stressing as it was clear that the highest you get in an organisation, the more you are exposed. The facts are that female CEOs in the Fortune 500 are below 5% (some outstanding 24 of us made it to the top, kudos!). The World Bank just published that women only have 75% of men’s rights. In McKinsey & Company’s report (Women in the Workplace 2018), they state from page 1: “to achieve equality, companies must turn good intentions into concrete actions”. In few words, lots of corporate communication, little actions. Sexism still pervades the workplace. Some would blame men for this. The oldest are probably the most sceptical about women in business. Some tend to have a paternalist approach (and you should say thank you when they give you advice), some act as cowboys (and in that case you shouldn’t focus on the form but on the content as they say). But very few have a honest peer to peer approach. And believe me, when they do, you immediately feel it. A sort of comfort surround you, you can be yourself, you feel at your best and deliver accordingly. But I think we shouldn’t under estimate the girl on girl hate factor. Women are often harder on each other than men are on each other and this is not helping and a waste opportunity for gender equality. As developed by Charles Fourier, the degree of civilisation reached by a society as always been proportionated to the degree of independence reached by women in this same society. Which doesn’t mean that we should be happy with what we have. We shouldn’t take anything for granted and challenge for how long we will still need a women’s day. Think about it, our day is just 5 days after “World Wildlife Day”, isn’t it ironic? Just for this, we should as human being, not accept to have such a day in our calendar in the 21st century. What have you done today to stop needing a Women’s day?