Making space for women and girls

Watching the story of Mary Cain, a young running phenom who, after joining Nike’s elite running program, found herself subject to emotional and verbal abuse, I was struck by something she said. . .

“I got caught in a system that was designed by men and for men which destroys the bodies of young girls. Rather than force young girls to fend for themselves, we have to protect them.”

(If you haven’t watched it may I suggest you check it out? I’ll wait).

Whether in sport, or in business, we women seem to end up in two camps, with one arguing that women don’t need protecting. We need to learn to fight. To stand up for ourselves. To “toughen up” and “take it like a man” because life is hard. And that’s what we had to do.

And there are some, including myself, who have come to believe that it’s not just okay to look out for women and girls, it’s necessary.

It’s necessary because we need to help make ourselves space. Space to to create and share resources for women. To meet experts who understand the very real physical, emotional and psychological differences between men and women, and see those differences as assets rather than deficits. To hear from leaders who have tried and failed, and are willing to tell their stories. To connect peers who can help each other along the way.

Is that protection? Maybe. Does that mean we are separated from men? Celebrated separately for our gender? Nope.

It’s about giving access to a system “designed by women for women,” which then sets women and girls up for success.

In the video, Mary also says “we need more women in power. Part of me wonders if I had worked with more female psychologists, nutritionists and even coaches where I’d be today.”

It’s a good reminder to me as a business owner, and a woman in banking and in sport, that the need for this type of support does not have an age.

And why I need to show up to coach, to lead, to share and yes, to protect.