Globally, women have taken the hit when it comes to unemployment, mental health and education. Whilst economies struggle to make it through this pandemic; women are being put in increasing financial instability by being 1.8 times more likely to lose their job compared to their male counterparts, and were often among the first to be let go.
In conjunction with this, young girls across the world are losing their access to education as their unpaid domestic duties increase due to budgets tightening and family members getting sick. It is therefore no surprise that the wellbeing of women has decreased. With these added stresses, young women were found to be most likely to suffer depression, anxiety and loneliness during lockdown according to a UCL study.
However, despite all these challenges women are finding themselves at the forefront of a revolution and just might be paving the way to recovery from the pandemic.
Small businesses have always been a vital part of our economy, however numbers had been decreasing year on year, that is until the pandemic hit. And the trend seems to be that women are at the forefront of this boom in new business.
First time female entrepreneurs are hitting the ground running with many of them seeing the challenges of the pandemic as an opportunity for growth. From setting up new subscription box companies to building their own consulting brand, women are taking the initiative to make their one-time side-hussle dreams into full-time financial successes.
These women truly have a challenger mindset. They are no longer just in survival mode but choosing to take risks, creating viable alternatives to big brands that have monopolised the pandemic and have ultimately utilised it to break through the glass ceiling.
Here at Creativebrief, we were inspired by how these women have taken these challenging times and turned them into opportunities. So we asked the women in our team to share their stories about challenging moments in their own careers and how they overcame them.
Izzy Ashton, Deputy Editor, BITE
A big part of my job is interviewing people. I absolutely love it. It’s taught me, as I’ve progressed through my career, that I shouldn’t be afraid to listen, to sit back and just absorb the stories being shared around me. I have also faced up to my own challenges as a young woman in the industry and a big part of my development as an interviewer has been to grow my confidence in feeling like I should be sitting in the room.
I recall one of the first interviews I ever did for BITE was with the leader of a well-known agency. As I sat down, I was greeted with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, a suggestion that, because I didn’t look like the kind of interviewer he’d been expecting, he didn’t really have the time for me. Regardless, I switched on my audio recorder and proceeded with my questions.
After I wrote the interview up, the agency demanded to see it before it was published and consequently changed each and every quote. I pushed back, assuring them that every word came directly from the interviewee himself. They weren’t swayed, preferring instead to rewrite this man’s words, rather than acknowledge the kind of person he really was. I relented, reminded by my then boss that there are some battles you learn from more than you lose.
Writing has given me the space to try to change people’s minds; to stand up for what I think is important or right. This includes the fact that, as a young woman working in and writing about the creative industries, I believe passionately that more women need to be invited into the room. This, despite having felt the full force of a creative ego trying to squeeze me out of it.
Grace Finney, Marketing Executive
Although being put on furlough was nothing to do with my gender, it didn’t stop me thinking about the gender furlough gap that became evident throughout the pandemic. Naturally, you begin to question your own talent for not being kept on. However, this was no time to feel sorry for myself.
Despite considering myself extremely lucky in comparison to so many (and that 30 degree heat last summer making it even more bearable), for me it was about being able to still contribute in some way.
Yes, you were put on furlough, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a valuable contributor to your company - it was a global pandemic hun! So alongside reading my body weight in books and eating my body weight in banana bread, I chose to not let that talent go to waste.
I volunteered for a start-up company to support their email campaign for launch while also working with an independent bookshop to set up their Google Ads. It felt great to not only be able to make a positive contribution again but it was also a confidence boost knowing you as an individual can have this impact.
A big challenge for women can often be confidence, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s recognising the small wins and being proud of what you’ve achieved, no matter how big or small.
Ellie Shearman, Junior Designer
After growing up in a progressive world and for the most part of my life being surrounded by strong female influences, it was a shock to me when I spent my first internship surrounded by sexist behaviour.
Every day started the same. As I walked down the industrial estate to where the office was located, men from the other warehouses would come out and make their comments, sneer and whistle. Although ‘harmless’, over time it made me feel uncomfortable and I would make sure I looked as plain as possible to avoid their attention.
Once inside the office my experience wasn’t much better. I was in a team with two other women but always felt like an outsider; like I wasn't welcome and a threat to their jobs. The breaking point was when I was set up to look inadequate by one of them. Because I hadn't completed a small task in the (unbeknownst to me) 20 minutes she had allocated, she reprimanded me and reported that I should be put on probation.
Not only did I feel humiliated, but I felt betrayed. I honestly had no idea what I had done to deserve this treatment and it saddened me to see that another woman was getting joy out of tearing me down. From there on, the bullying only got worse and I felt like I was being pushed out of the company.
The experience left a bitter taste in my mouth and when I finally left the internship, I felt relief wash over me. Though with nothing else to base my experiences on, it left me in fear of future employers and nervous that I wasn't good enough for anyone who hired me.
Now, after having the opportunity to work with some wonderful people; people who help nurture my creativity, who listened to my opinions, I am aware that this is clearly untrue. I learned not to let people treat you with disrespect, and that no matter how far down in the hierarchy someone is, that they are always important and that if you can help others, you should. I am sure I will encounter people like this again, but I now know my own worth and I’ll be damned if they make me or any other woman feel less.