International Women’s Day. It’s made me reflect again on all that I owe women for my life, my happiness, my business success…. So much that, frankly, for me there should be 365 International Women’s Days every year. But I’m more concerned that there needs to be one in the first place. It’s unforgivable that so many women remain so repressed in the workplace, in life, worst of all in whole cultures.
I’ve tried to do my best to compliment, to help, to support, to recognise the women in my life and treat them as equals (or, more frequently, betters). No doubt, like all men, I’ve failed. But let me take this opportunity of celebrating some who have had the biggest influences on my own life (other than romantic ones!). I’ve omitted names, for obvious reasons. They will know who they are.
- My mother, of course, but specifically for instilling in me from an early age that domestic tasks are for everyone, and teaching me well in cookery, cleaning, ironing and other essential lifetime skills.
- My wife, for standing by me despite all the dips in the road, some of them vertiginous, teaching me Spanish and inveigling me in another culture, and a million other things.
- Mrs C, for allowing, encouraging and trusting me to rip up established methods by introducing new technology to the school magazine that nobody else there knew anything about (and nor did I, until I was allowed to do it)
- Mrs T, for teaching me touch typing, the most useful business skill I ever acquired
- A, for getting me out of a rut of oddball jobs that were getting me nowhere in my 20s, and putting me into workplaces where I could demonstrate talents I had almost forgotten I had
- G, for inviting and allowing me to break out of a temp placement to do a host of administrative tasks and put me on the road to business success, and staying close.
- J, for resolving my ailing company’s financial woes over and over again, impressing and convincing bank managers and tax inspectors, and never wavering despite all the setbacks
- E, for taking on a seemingly impossible workload and building a veritable army of meninas around her to get through it all successfully – and then take on more
- C, for cajoling a cabal of mysogenistic software developers into taking their work seriously, fixing their bugs and delivering a quality product
- N and M and S, for believing in the business enough to come back and set up offices of their own in far-flung countries
- C for teaching me how to improve my diet and motivating me to slim down a lot
These are only examples; there are so many more. They’ve all helped me personally through bringing their skills, their doggedness, their intelligence, and perhaps most importantly, by telling me what I need to know. What I need to do. Most men call it nagging. I call it encouragement, and, I suspect like all of us, I need it. And almost all have added their friendship, and we have stayed friends ever since we first met.
Of course, there are brilliant men too. But all the women I’ve mentioned above are at least the equal of any man I’ve met. No woman should be abused or maltreated, or regarded as an object, inferior, a sex toy. Whole cultures, whole countries in the developing world need to be convinced of that. But that’s a long term project, and we need to put our own houses in order first.