This year’s theme for International Women’s Day really resonated with me.
So, I decided I wanted to ask some amazing, inspiring women I know to share some of their insights about equality and inequality they’ve faced throughout their lives.
First, in my 5 blog series this month is Jamila Davis, Senior Business Development Manager for the Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a mother to four children and their ages range from 8 – 20.
Around 6 years ago I decided to study and gained two degrees in 3 years, in Business Management and Finance and International Business.
I was headhunted by an agency to join the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and after 2 years part-time, I decided to pick up the mantle for the Commonwealth Chamber growing it to 135 members.
Recently I have recently been charged with growing membership for the Transatlantic Chambers of Commerce.
The theme for IWD this year is EachforEqual – as an inspiring female leader/entrepreneur what do you strive for when you hear equality?
It’s always both an honor and humbling to be called inspirational or a female leader, but we all have a duty as women to stand in solidarity and support each other.
We often hear a lot of talk about equality, which results in some cases with very little action.
I take responsibility for challenging stereotypes and the norms by deciding that I will not wait for someone else to pave the way for me.
I will help pave the way for those to come. I draw inspiration from my children who I see striving to achieve great things, both, academically and in life generally.
It all sounds rosy, doesn’t it? The truth is very different, but in continuing to strive to be seen as I truly am regardless of my skin colour, gender or social status.
Can you give us an example of when you were discriminated against because of your gender?
Ha ha how long have you got?
I could write a book on the number of times I’ve seen and felt discriminated against.
My first professional experience was at 19. I’d been given a position at a bank as a Lending Manager, which I was so proud of. I was at that time the only black person out of 200 members of staff when I announced I was pregnant they responded with you need to be on the management training program because you’re going to be a mum.
Working in recruitment, I would have businesses make discriminatory and prejudiced remarks not realising I was black.
I have been overlooked for job opportunities and openly asked in an interview ‘so if your child was sick, what would you do?’ this is after successfully getting through three rounds of interviews, personality, and group assessment.
This was not the first time I had got to the final stage of an interview and been given feedback ‘they didn’t think I was a good fit’.
How did you overcome this?
How do I combat this?
I just keep going. I get up, dust myself off and keep pushing because I learned something very early on, the battle is often not outside of ourselves but within.
My motivation, my will, and tendency is stronger than anyone will know. That’s their view of me and not mine. It doesn’t account for everyone.
Likeminded people are often drawn together and those are the people who can provide you as you can them a nurturing environment.
What advice would you give your younger self and future generations of women who strive to live in a more equal world?
I would tell myself, you’re stronger than you know. Push beyond your comfort zones and what you think is your limitations, you’ll keep surprising yourself.
Be more confident, love yourself more. It is okay to cry, life is full of highs and lows. Neither last.
Improvise, adapt and overcome.
Jamila is an absolute superstar – honoured to call her my friend.