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Are ‘women only’ award a good thing?

By Rebecca Tuck

Last month, like many of my colleagues and peers, I received a nomination for a ‘women only’ award in my field.

After the initial sense of pride, and the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that someone out there thinks highly of you, I realised there was something else stewing underneath. Rightly or wrongly, in that moment, I felt annoyance.

I sat with this feeling for a while and then decided to share it with other women who I knew had been nominated and appeared to be excited at the notion. I was both reassured and a little saddened that I wasn’t alone. There wasn’t a single woman I spoke to that didn’t have a feeling, however small, that receiving a gender-specific award is a bit like winning a consolation prize.

There are so many fantastic women in our sector, highlighted by the sheer number of nominees for these awards. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be out there winning everything anyway, so is it right to be recognised as not simply ‘the best’, but ‘the best, woman’?

Ultimately, despite some of my misgivings, I believe these women only awards do have a place.

Shining a light on women that do incredible things every day is a great thing, and I love the idea of a ‘safe space’ to celebrate one another. I just hope this doesn’t put a plaster over the bullet hole that is; we still have a long way to go to when it comes to gender equality in financial services.

I think back to all the times I’ve attended events and been the only woman in the room. The times I’ve questioned my achievements or abilities, or had them questioned for me. Even awards I’ve won previously, as proud as I am of them, came with an underlying niggle of if I truly deserved them, or if my gender played a part. Was I the ‘token woman’?

Of course, as a profession, we don’t score well on any type of diversity. This is especially damning when you consider the never-ending conveyor belt of diversity-led marketing initiatives we encounter. Why do we struggle to move the dial and do anything meaningful?

I am no expert, and I don’t have all the answers, but I’m frustrated that we’re not further down the track. I also acknowledge my privilege, I’m sure that the women who were in my position even 5 years ago would be more entitled to be resentful. However, I am keen we don’t settle for less than we deserve.

I would love there to be a time where these awards don’t need to exist, but we’re not there yet.

So, for the record, I will be continuing in the running for the award that I was nominated for. I feel that at this moment we need to continue to drive the message forward and support the women in our profession to achieve great things. After all, we can only become what we see.

I just hope that the next generation of badass women are recognised beyond their gender.

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