This article was written by Katie Duke, Marketing Specialist at SECURE, on the importance of International Women’s Day to her. Pictured above from left to right is Katie with manager and friend, Megan Macadam.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day to celebrate and recognize the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. We’ve been recognizing this day for over 100 years.

Brought forward by Clara Zetkin in 1910, the goal was to celebrate female achievements and press for equal rights. With unanimous approval from over 100 women from 17 countries, the first International Women’s Day took place on March 19, 1911. Over one million women and men came together to fight for women’s rights to work, vote and end inequality.

March 8, 2021 marks the 110th official International Women’s Day. A quick google search will show you the dozens of different themes surrounding the 2021 campaign from numerous organizations and government organizations; including, UN Women, the Government of Canada and the official International Women’s Day campaign.

Although they have different campaign themes, their focus is the same... to challenge gender inequality and create a more inclusive world. One similarity that I saw between all of these campaigns (and the one I wanted to talk about), is woman in leadership.

In November of 2020, UN Women released an article focusing on women in leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Women leaders and women’s organizations have demonstrated their skills, knowledge and networks to effectively lead in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Today there is more acceptance than ever before that women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table, and make irreplaceable contributions to decisions, policies and laws that work better for all.”

I have been very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by strong women who inspire me in all areas of my life – family members, friends that feel more like family and women I’ve met throughout my career. I’ve learned something important from each and every one of them (and I wouldn’t have enough time to talk about the impact they’ve all had on my life and career).

I started working at SECURE in 2014 in a co-op position on the marketing team. Starting your “adult job” is scary. Thinking back to my first day, an unsure young woman flashes back in my head. Am I in the right place? What if they don’t like me? What if I say something stupid? Will I do well? Is this even what I want to do?

Of course, both women and men may have similar questions running through their minds when starting a new adventure – it can be hard to move past these insecurities.

But part of the mission of IWD is to remind young women that they belong in the spaces that we historically have not been as present in.

In my time at SECURE, I have had the privilege of working directly and indirectly with women who have helped me grow out of these uncertainties. These mentors, who have been unapologetic and confident in their ability and voice, have inspired me with the same qualities as a woman in a male dominated field.

In some cases, I still catch those feelings of uncertainty creeping into my mind, and that is ok. Know your worth; become your own greatest advocate; speak with conviction and they will listen – these are only a few of the lessons I have learned from the female mentors in my life.

UN Women reported, “even with a record-breaking new high of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2020, only 7.4 per cent of companies on the list are run by women.”

We have yet to see equal representation of women in leadership roles around the world. Changing this is so important because, to be frank, representation matters, and it is needed. It creates diversity, brings forward new ideas, creates opportunities and promotes equality. As an organization, SECURE believes all team members have a role to play in helping to create an accessible workplace where everyone feels that they belong, and women are integral to advancing this mentality.

That being said, leadership is more than company hierarchy.

The list of women that I have worked with, who I consider great leaders, not only includes but goes far beyond those that I have reported to. They have been peers in the organization, mentors from outside; they had experiences to share on resilience and growth. Above all, they have been champions for themselves and for those around them.

International Women’s Day is important to me because it is a day to recognize the progress women have made since that first IWD celebration in 1911.

While this is only a brief look on the importance of IWD to me, I feel we need to keep celebrating and advocating for International Women’s Day – not all women experience the freedom we do in Canada.

I urge anyone reading this to think of the women in your lives – your daughters, sisters, mothers, partners, friends. Think of them when you think of why you celebrate this day. We all have these strong women in our personal life, but representation matters in the workplace too.

Working for and alongside empowered women at SECURE is motivating to women like myself, who aspire to one day lead in the same way.