It’s an unhappy fact, but I am in a minority and it has nothing to do with my gender or my race. I am part of a small group of people, globally, who work at a technology company led by a woman. The fact that Julia Salasky, founder and CEO of Legl, also happens to be a woman shouldn’t be something of note in 2020. But it is and it is something to be celebrated, especially this International Women’s Day.
But I don’t think International Women’s Day is just about celebrating the big achievements – of which founding and running a high growth business is a huge achievement for anyone! For me, IWD is about celebrating all of those smaller actions – every day, everywhere – which collectively make a difference when it comes to a gender equal world. Which is why, this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #EachforEqual and collective individualism, is something which resonates with me.
And so, to celebrate IWD and the power of collective individualism, I want to share the collective actions of the women behind Legl and what IWD means to them.
Meet Lauren Watson, Legal Partnerships Manager, India Dearlove, Software Engineer, Maeve Storey, Senior Operations Lead and Julia Salasky, Founder and CEO.
Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
For India, working as a software engineer has meant working in male dominated environments (up until joining Legl!). “For me, International Women’s Day is a great chance to lift women up – shine a spotlight on those who might otherwise get overlooked.”
As Julia put it, “It’s easy to get swept up in the day-to-day. A single day which focuses everyone’s minds on where we’ve got to and what still needs to change is a good thing.”
For Maeve it’s more about the conversation IWD ignites and the platform it creates. “There’s still a lot to be done to achieve gender equality. We need to create awareness of that and that’s what IWD does. Personally, I like to take the day as an opportunity to text all my amazing female friends to tell them how great they are!“
“This is not a time to be complacent“, said Lauren and that’s why IWD is important to her. “It’s great to acknowledge how far we’ve come, but it’s more important to take stock of how much more need to do.”
This year’s theme is all about “collective individualism” – how individual actions can help create a gender equal world. How have you challenged a gender stereotype you’ve seen?
India put it best when she said “I hope, by simply being a woman and a software engineer, that I am challenging the stereotype that tech is for men.” Too right!
For Julia, it’s about speaking out. “A few months ago I called out a legal news outlet for summarising a 2000-word article about Lady Hale, the most senior judge in the UK by highlighting what she wears. I was a bit taken aback by the reaction it got on social media, but the point for me is – if you see something which doesn’t sit right, you need to speak out.”
For Maeve, it’s closer to home – it’s about calling herself out. “I find that when speaking about certain professions, especially people in senior positions like doctors or lawyers, we (and I count myself amongst that!) will refer to those people as “he”. It’s an unconscious slip and when I do it, or when I hear someone else do it, I call it out.”
“I’ve noticed that sometimes, especially if I’m in a room with more senior males, I might not get introduced or get excluded. I ignore that and just make a point of introducing myself!” explains Lauren.
Which women inspire you?
“Steve Shirley. She founded her own software company in the 60s. She championed women in tech by giving them flexible work hours and hired 99% women in her company (before it became illegal to do so). Katherine Johnson. She recently died and was a mathematician who worked at NASA and helped calculate the trajectory to put the first American in space, while also facing barriers of being an African American working woman in the 50s. And lastly, Amika George, who started the Free Periods Campaign to help end period poverty (and also raised funds on CrowdJustice!).” – India Dearlove
“Carole Cadwalladr – I’ve looked up to her as a role model for her fearless and game-changing investigative journalism. Which is why it was also humbling when she used CrowdJustice to raise funds to fight for those same journalist rights and freedoms.” – Julia Salasky
“I think there are a lot of young female activists like Scarlett Curtis and Gina Martin who are giving a voice to a younger generation of feminists.” – Maeve Storey
“Lady Hale – everything she’s done and every glass ceiling she’s smashed through in the legal industry is hugely inspiring to me.” – Lauren Watson
Jo Sidhu is Head of Growth at Legl.