Celebrating International Women's Day, Zoe inspires inclusion

Zoe, peer support lead, talks about what inclusion means to her as a woman.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is Inspire Inclusion.

The theme of Inspire Inclusion encourages everyone to recognise the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalised communities.

I wanted to reflect on this theme as it particularly resonates with me. When we think about being a woman it is important to think about it through an intersectional lens.

I am a woman. I am a white woman which definitely gives me an enormous privilege. However, I am also a woman who has experienced child sexual exploitation for a very long period alongside abuse, neglect and prolonged periods in the care system. I also have mental illness and use mental health services. All of these things impact my experiences as a woman, my perspective and the contribution I can bring to work.

So instead of just focusing on how we include women as a group, it is really important for us to consider how we promote the inclusion and representation of various kinds of women; we are not a homogeneous group.

When I have felt included, I have been inspired to bring my full life experience - it is seen as something additional I bring, not a deficit. For many years I hid some of my life experiences at work. 

When I started to mention them, on occasions, I had opportunities taken from me for fear that it is ‘too much’. Or I was treated like I am about to 'break'.

It works when I am respected and empowered. When I am allowed to have a voice, and where I am allowed to be in control. Control was taken away from me for too long, growing up.

It means a lot when I have a platform to use my voice and experience to hopefully let other women see that there is the possibility for this. I feel a responsibility to be a champion for other women - which I don’t take lightly.

I am embracing the narrative of ‘bring your whole self to work', but if we are saying we are facilitating that we have to allow people to do just that.

We need to let people with lived experience flourish and not see these life experiences as deficits. Women with a range of different life experiences can only enrich the organisation and the services and care offered.

Happy International Women’s day to all!