Since 1975, the United Nations has been celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, calling for gender equality worldwide, but the first International Women’s Day was recorded in the US on February 28, 1909. This date was chosen by the Socialist Party of America to honour the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where 15,000 women stood up for better working conditions.
I am fascinated with the lives of these women, and all women, who break boundaries and try to pave the way for the rest of us. This is why our Women of Monaco Life Series, and each of the articles we publish promoting women’s initiatives and achievements, is vital: to highlight the bright, talented, innovative, compassionate, humanitarian, engaging and funny females, of all ages, who try to make our Monaco community more colourful. Our stories need to be told. And not just on March 8.
Stars’n’Bars is paying special tribute to International Women’s Day on Thursday with “Women Who Make a Difference”, Monaco notables, regular customers and female staff, whose images will be shown across the day on the restaurant’s big screens. Take the time to look at these women, say hello to them if you see them, add a “Bravo” while you’re at it.
SheCanHeCan, the Monaco-based organisation that aims to inspire and support girls to take leadership roles, is honouring Women’s Day by asking 8 women in the Principality three questions: What really matters to you? What has been the biggest obstacle that you’ve overcome in your field as a woman/woman of colour? To the girls reading this, what advice would you give them that you too needed when you were younger?
SheCanHeCan has shared some of the responses with Monaco Life for publication, and the full interviews can be found on their She Can He Can Facebook page.
More than just sharing your International Women’s Day photos (#monacowomenrock), take the time to reach out today – by text, messenger, email or even a good old-fashioned phone call – to a woman you admire and wish her a Happy Women’s Day, let her know that you’re thinking of her.
The #metoo and #timesup campaigns are bringing attention to big issues, but unless women start being kinder to each other and more supportive of each other, our movement will lose momentum. And we’re in it for the long haul.
Anne Eastwood, Monaco’s first Ombudsman
What really matters to you? As a woman and as a lawyer, I’ll answer in two words: fairness and justice. Anything unfair deeply hurts me. Primarily, this is what motivated my professional choices. I haven’t loved anything more about being a lawyer than that of defending what seemed right to me. It is also something that convinced me to join the National Council when I returned to Monaco. Here I was able to practice law, on the legislative side this time, by shaping things from within the rules of how we live together. I also get to experience the pertinence of this Montesquieu proverb: “something is not right because it is law; but it must be the law because it is right.
This concern for justice – and justness – has always prevailed for me. Today it makes sense in my mission as High Commissioner to protect people’s rights and fight against discrimination. Serving my country in this role is a great opportunity. But I also think that everyone, whether man or woman, in the position they occupy, has a duty to act at a certain level to make our society fairer, more vigilant to the needs of others and committed to the importance of solidarity.
Mary Carman Madrid, Commercial Director of the Helicopter Division at Avinco SAM
What has been the biggest obstacle that you’ve overcome in your field as a woman/woman of colour? Working in a male-dominated industry has never been easy. It requires extra efforts to gain recognition and respect from peers in the industry or even from customers. You want to be judged by your work and not by the way you look.
During the early years of my career, I was confronted by sexual harassment, situations that were very destabilising, but over the time I have learned to manage those and move on. Now, I do not tolerate any situation that makes me feel uncomfortable and I am not afraid to tell anyone to stop, whenever there is an inappropriate attitude or situation.
I believe that self-confidence is extremely important in scenarios like these; a strong mind-set can give us the strength and motivation to overpass any difficulty and prove to our challengers they are wrong. Of course not all has been negative, I have always been very lucky to be surrounded by colleagues and mentors (women and men) who have always believed in my capabilities and me.
Cinzia Colman, Founder of Prix Femme de l’Année, Monte Carlo
To the girls reading this, what advice would you give them that you too needed when you were younger? This is a piece of advice that I received from my parents, especially my father who always encouraged me to follow my own path. You must have courage and you must always try to give the best of yourself. Also, it is important to be well prepared: if you are well prepared, you don’t need be afraid. You must not be afraid to ask questions, to start something and to dare to be different. He told me it’s normal to hear “no” more than “yes”, but you have to persevere. If you don’t ask, if you don’t try, you’ll never get there. Being prepared and being courageous are two key things that you need to move forward.
Lindsay Mackenzie Wright, Assistant Director, Head of Staff and Student Well-Being at the International School of Monaco
What really matters to you? Happiness and contentment means knowing that I am fulfilled, both personally and professionally. It means that the little things in life matter, that the flaws are irrelevant. It means that I give kindness to others and show compassion. It is important for me to think of others, before I think of myself.
Making a difference through my work really matters too. To know that by an interaction, intervention or words of advice, that I have impacted a student in some way. It is important to me that my students know they are supported, listened to and respected. To make a positive difference in someone else’s life, by looking beyond one’s self. That everyone else knows, that the perceived ‘imperfections’ are totally irrelevant in fulfilling one’s life.
Tiffany Cromwell, Australian professional cyclist
What has been the biggest obstacle that you’ve overcome in your field as a woman/woman of colour? Trying to make a career out of competing in sport as a woman is an obstacle in itself but as a woman in cycling, a hugely male-dominated sport, there have been many hurdles to face to be able to make a career out of it.
I’d say the biggest is the huge disparity and inequality between men and women, from the money to the support and sponsors, and from the professionalism to the coverage – in almost all aspects of the sport really.
We train just as hard as men, give so much of our life to cycling, make many sacrifices and take it on as a full-time job but get far less than the men putting in the same amount of work and dedication. A minimum salary at the men’s top side of the sport is similar to many of the top female cyclists, plus on the women’s side there is no minimum salary.
A lot has improved since I started and I do it because I love cycling, but it is frustrating how much we need to fight and speak up to try and make change happen. We are currently in a big time of change and the gap is slowly reducing in the disparity, but there is still such a long way to go. (Photo: Instagram tiffanycromwell)
Chanterria McGilbra, Founder and Executive Director of Prancing Ponies Foundation
To the girls reading this, what advice would you give them that you too needed when you were younger? My advice is to listen to your intuition more than anything and anyone else – it won’t be easy in a world where everyone wants to see numbers and factual proof of why a decision is being made but stay true to who you are and what you know. If you manage to do this, you will consistently move toward your life’s greatest purpose and live the life of your dreams. I promise.
Laetitia Mikail, International Legal Consultant at Moores Rowland
What has been the biggest obstacle that you’ve overcome in your field as a woman/woman of colour? Being asked in job interviews about baby plans and family life (thankfully, not by my present employer!). When looking for a job in my late twenties / early thirties, I have been asked on a number of occasions about my personal life during the interview process. It is perfectly unethical but potential employers are generally wary of hiring a woman of childbearing age to get around issues of maternity leave and child care when a woman returns to work – they would rather hire a man to get around those issues. This form of employment discrimination is highly detrimental to women striving to achieve success in their career and profession.
Noriko Katayanagi-Bonafede, international business consultant in Monaco, connecting companies in Japan, Europe & the US
To the girls reading this, what advice would you give them that you too needed when you were younger? Wherever you go, before adjusting to new environment, try to find yourself first.
No matter what other people may think of you, you need to know who you are. That can be a lifelong journey, but you will be sure of yourself in any situation.
For more on She Can He Can, visit their website. Article first published March 7, 2017.