“Fight for the things you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” Ruth Badger Ginsburg
Every International Women’s Day, I acknowledge the importance of what this day represents. After all, I know only too well how vital it is to celebrate international women’s day and their achievements. But also to discuss gender equality more broadly, given there is still such a long way to go in the fight for a level playing field. So, on the eve of International Women’s Day 2021, I put pen to paper once again.
Following the release of About This Girl, my first book and memoir, where I discuss my experiences as a woman in business intimately, I have written a letter to my younger 18-year-old self. At 18, I had just finished high school, was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime travelling to Japan to live and thought the world was my oyster. After building a thriving international business with all the knocks and challenges along the way, here I share my learnings and advice to an optimistic, bright, smart younger woman who was starting her career.
Congratulations! You have made it through your school years with flying colours. After your teacher told you that you wouldn’t get the grades you needed for your Communications Degree, you even topped English. You were right not to listen to her! Look how far you have come, and to think you will go on to build a successful career in international marketing and communications – I am so glad you did not let her negativity get to you – instead, you let it fuel your drive even more.
As you are getting ready to embark on your trip to Japan to further your Japanese language pursuit, I have some advice for you. Always remember that there are no limits, and you can do anything you put your mind to, and you will. You will climb mountains that you think are too high to climb, and you will achieve truly remarkable things.
However, it will not be easy or straight forward. In your quest for achieving your dreams, you will walk a less travelled path and experience more knocks than you probably can think of just now. You might feel alone and wonder why you are fighting against the grain. You see, although at school they told you that women could do anything, and they can, they didn’t tell you that there still is a glass ceiling that you will re-encounter time and time again and that you will need to break it in the fight for equality.
Whether it is when you have your first daughter and told you can’t have a corporate career and be a new mother by your male boss. Or when people mistake you as the Event or PR Manager of your own company because indeed there is no way that a 5ft 2″ petite woman could be the Founder and CEO of two, let alone one company with international reach.
You will break the glass; you will prove your naysayers wrong and change the game simultaneously. As you will go on to tell your daughters to fly high, never be afraid to fly higher young Gemma. If you are scared and have butterflies in your tummy, it is a good thing. You are on the right path.
So keep fighting. And keep caring about the important things to you, such as a level playing field. You have more inner strength and resilience than most, and your drive and passion will keep you going. You will not give up when things get too hard. Instead, you will keep focused and keep achieving and, in the process, you will positively change the lives of many young women and men you encounter along the way by showing them that anything is possible.
Remember, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to – don’t ever believe anyone who tells you otherwise, as you will meet plenty of naysayers along the way.
You will use your voice in your book, you will help change the game, and your journey will inspire change.
Stay bright and keep sparkling,
This International Women’s Day article is also published on Gemma’s LinkedIn account here.