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International Women's Day 2023: Cracking the Code

For International Women's Day, we asked our colleagues about their experiences, inspirations, and hopes for the future as we tackle this year's IWD theme of 'Cracking the Code'.

08 March 2023

Today is International Women's Day, and the theme for this year is ‘Cracking the code’. 'Cracking the Code' highlights the vital role that transformative ideas, inclusive technologies, and accessible education can play in addressing the pervasive discrimination and marginalisation of women around the world.

As a woman-founded and led business, Brighte is proud to celebrate the achievements of women in our lives and across society as a whole. To mark IWD 2023, we’ve chatted to some of our team members from across Brighte about their experiences, inspirations and hopes for the future workplace and society. 

What does this year’s IWD theme “Cracking the Code“ mean to you?

As a society, we have achieved so much and have come so far - but there is still further to go. Women have not yet achieved equality on many fronts, particularly in developing countries where statistics on literacy, education, healthcare, infant mortality and violence against women are concerning. A more equal society is one that we will all benefit from and so we need to continue to push for the existing barriers and gaps that limit equality, to be broken down. ‘Cracking the Code’ is a theme that is focused on a more gender equal future that utilises technology to deliver this - this is the only way we can amplify information and opportunity and accelerate women's progress towards gender equality.

- Katherine McConnell, Brighte's founder and CEO

What do you think is the most significant challenge facing women in the workplace today, and how can we overcome it?

I believe the biggest challenge for women is driven by the expectations placed on them outside of the workplace - culturally, biologically, ancestrally, and within the family structure - which leaves a gap between their two "jobs" or "identities."

It was only about 80 years ago that women entered the workforce, and prior to that time, a woman's singular job was very defined within the home - predominantly to look after the household, bear children, nurture them, cook, clean, and so on. Over time, women have not simply left this job of being the natural nurturer within the household, but have taken on a second "job" and "identity" within the workplace.

- Jane Donovan, Customer Relations Team Lead

I feel that women still face a unique challenge in the workplace when it comes to becoming a mother: the fear of career setbacks and being passed over for promotions. I think this fear can lead many women to put off having children until they have reached a certain level in their careers. Women can overcome this fear by focusing on their own strengths and capabilities. Networking with other mothers in their industry to learn more about ways to effectively manage parenting and a career.

- Michelle Toohey, Solutions Manager

The gender pay gap continues to be one of the most prevalent yet preventable challenges women face. It's estimated that it will take over 200 years to close the gap. In Australia, the national gender pay gap is 13.3 per cent, meaning women earn 87 cents for every dollar men earn. While there is no blanket solution to close the gap, pay transparency is a step forward and vital to expediting the process. Pay transparency measures can help expose pay differences, identify underlying causes, increase accountability for employers, and help establish trust between employers and employees.

- Habiba-Kawtar Bendahmane, Senior Product Manager

What do you think are the benefits of having more women in leadership positions, both within the fintech industry and beyond?

Women leaders matter - be it to offer diverse perspective; enhanced collaboration; improved staff retention, reputation & recruitment; and overall greater profitability. Recent global studies has shown companies with more than 30% female executives tended to outperform companies with 10% to 30% female leaders, and those companies outperformed companies with fewer or no women executives. Research also demonstrates that women leaders are more likely than their senior male counterparts to take public stands on gender bias and racial equity at work, more likely to mentor and sponsor other women, and more committed to advocating for employee-friendly policies and programs that can help attract and retain other women over the long haul. There therefore is real value for companies to have/ retain women in leadership positions by offering meaningful work, doubling down on gender pay gap, flexible working options and offering career progression for both current and future employees with an eye toward internal mobility, skills development and mentorship.

- Sindhoor Pakkala, Head of Commercial Operations

Diversity of leadership enables a broader spectrum of perspectives and experiences, and leads to better decisions, more often. Better outcomes for society will come from having more females in leadership positions, and hence more diversity.

- Isaac Ward, Chief Operating Officer

How can technology be used to advance gender equality and promote women's empowerment?

I love thinking about the role technology plays in developing countries for women, and how this will help them in ways we can't imagine compared to life without it. Technology has and will continue to enable us to skip stages of development, and for women in developing countries in particular, provide access to information and tools that would have been much harder to obtain without it. This includes access to medical information about birth control, fertility and disease prevention, how to filter water, as well as education and microfinance. Technology is an equaliser and a very powerful force for advancing knowledge and access to information - which in itself creates options and power.

- Katherine McConnell, Brighte's founder and CEO

Who is a woman that has inspired you in your life or career, and why?

I have always been inspired by the underdogs, women that have broken barriers and accomplished incredible feats. Women like Joy Mangano, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Louise Hay. These inspiring women have all proven that it is possible to overcome the odds and make a difference. They have shown us that with hard work and determination, anything is possible. They are an inspiration to all of us and proof that no matter what obstacles you face, anything is possible if you never give up. 

- Michelle Toohey, Solutions Manager

In 1956, in rural Morocco, an 18-year-old pregnant orphan with no family or support system lost her husband in war. Against all odds, and despite being uncommon in Morocco at the time, she refused to remarry and proceeded to raise her daughter alone. That woman was my grandmother, and she worked multiple jobs as a maid to provide for my mum. Being a young single mother living in a poor rural area in Morocco was not easy. She would save a few coins weekly to buy my mum French magazines at the local market. It was their weekly ritual to sit down and go through them together. Though she was illiterate, grandma made sure my mum went to school. She would make my mum read articles and translate them for her, but most importantly, she would point at various pictures of cars, houses, and happy families and tell my mum repeatedly, "the only way to a great life is through great education".

My mum would go on to become the first girl to ever make it to high school in her village and neighbouring villages. It was so uncommon at the time that the closest high school was 250km away, where she was awarded a scholarship. My mum went on to become a high school teacher, making it her life mission to give everyone she crosses paths with the gift of education. Both these women were strong forces in my life and had a huge influence on my desire to strive for learning and never let my circumstances be a barrier to trying.

- Habiba-Kawtar Bendahmane, Senior Product Manager

I’ve been very lucky to have several woman in both my life and career who have been incredibly inspiring, however, the biggest female inspiration I have had influence me is closer to home - my wonderful mother, Helen. Throughout my childhood, when I was still living at home in Wagga Wagga, I never truly understood the insurmountable effort my Mum would go through daily to support my brother and I. She worked full-time as a Physiotherapist, got us to school with packed meals, clean clothes, got us from school to the various sporting activities we were apart of, got us home to a clean house, cooked dinner, help my father with his workload and still manage to get out to partake in the different equestrian areas she was apart of also. My whole life, my Mum has been nothing but supportive, loving, caring, courages and strong in every aspect towards her family, friends and colleagues. She shaped me into the man I am today, and no amount of thanks will make up for the sacrifices she made for us. She is the ultimate female figure and a true inspiration. 

- William Hicks, Growth Account Manager

What are some positive changes you have seen for women in the workplace during your career, and what changes do you hope to see in the future?

Positive change: A few years ago, it was common to hear in passing conversation that when hiring for a role, a strategic consideration, perhaps on par with qualification and experience, was whether the candidate was a female of a certain age and/or had young children. However, in the past couple of years, the stories shared of women being offered new roles, even when they have informed their prospective employers at the interview stage that they will need to go on parental leave in under a year of starting their new role, are getting more frequent. This is a positive step forward, where employers are more readily embracing all stages of life and encouraging career development in those stages.

Hope for the future: Gender-based perceptions still cause difficulties and frustrations in people's chosen career paths. For example, in the medical field, it's a common story to hear that if both a female and a male enter a treatment room, patients generally assume the doctor, or in the case of both being doctors, the more senior doctor, is the male. So, the hope for the future is that gender would have less and less of a role to play in the perception of how someone can perform in the job they are qualified for and have experience in, across various industries.

- Navindiee Jayatilaka, Financial Controller

Seeing the changes to parental leave policy at Brighte and other companies is a great step forward. Having the option for either parent to take on those duties immediately supports women in the workplace, either to return to work earlier or for additional support during the newborn phase.

- Carly Higgins, Content Manager

How can we ensure that fintech solutions are accessible and inclusive for women in developing countries and marginalised communities?

Having quotas for specific community groups and international students from developing countries at a university program level and graduate program level would help to ease the path to accessibility. There is always debate around quotas, however, when people come from a marginalised background, quotas may be the only way for them to have a level playing field to gain entry. It’s often overlooked, but the starting position is just not the same for everyone, and acknowledging this and wanting to correct this is to proactively strive for a more equitable society.

- Navindiee Jayatilaka, Financial Controller

Celebrate the achievements of women around the world this International Women's Day! Visit the official United Nations (UN) website to learn more and find out how you can get involved.