The current fight against Covid-19 is a prime example of women inspiring and innovating throughout this pandemic. Take Professor Sarah Gilbert, the woman behind the building blocks of the Oxford Vaccine. In an interview with the Financial Times asking if she was conscious of acting as a role model for young girls, Gilbert made the key point that she would be disappointed that she would need to be, “because this is 2020”. “Why are we even discussing women scientists? I’m not a woman scientist, I’m a scientist and more than half my colleagues are women and we do the job.” Yet she adds that women, including herself, do not always make their voices heard loudly enough in the debates that are core to the research process.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 #choosetochallenge seems like a direct response to Professor Gilbert’s message. In this situation, if Gilbert hadn’t challenged herself and spoken up who knows if her vaccine research would ever have been fruitful. Arguing her scientific method and holding her place in the debate has led to an outcome that at times during this pandemic seemed unimaginable.
Something that may ring closer to home is the strain the pandemic has put on working mothers. The unsung heroes of the pandemic, #workingmoms have taken the brunt of lockdown stress. The closure of schools and nurseries has added further responsibility to many mothers already trying to navigate working from home. According to a recent study by the University of Southern California, 44% of women said they were the sole provider of care for their children compared with 14% of men during the pandemic. Whatever the statistics may be there is no doubt that women are wearing the hat of mother, teacher and employee during this pandemic. From using fridge magnets to teach times tables to meal prepping during a meeting, getting creative has been the tactic for all mothers this past year. This certainly is innovation at its finest - thinking outside the box.
The idea of challenging our thoughts shares a clear link to innovation which means breaking with tradition. Nevertheless, throwing out the statement “challenge yourself” for many may seem as vague as “learn to fly”. Fortune Magazine’s Ellen McGirt made the simple but often forgotten point that “the job of an inclusive leader is to look around the table and notice who’s not there. Then go ask yourself why, and fix it.”
Innovation means noticing a problem, speaking up about it and finding better solutions.
As today is International Women's Day, it is a time to reflect and celebrate the women around us.
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