We recently spoke to Women in Defence Awards judge Natasha Stromberg to find out more about why she supported the Women in Defence Awards and her work in gender equality.
Why did you support the Women in Defence awards?
Defence is a really good industry to showcase that any biological differences don’t hamper women…
I supported the WiD Awards because it showcased the non-stereotypical achievements of women. We have expectations that men would have certain qualities and would be leading in fields such as the military and combat, but of course women have those qualities in the same way.
We expect people in our military to be resilient, we expect them to be leaders, we expect them to be brave, we expect them to be strong and we expect them to be champions. Often we don’t equate any of those words with women and so I think it is fantastic to show women excelling in those fields, claiming those words and behaviours.
The Defence industry shows us that biological differences don’t hamper women and it’s a very good example for other industries to follow – it’s a benchmark industry.
Also, people really appreciate being acknowledged and recognised and it’s very important that women are recognised for their contributions because for many, many decades they haven’t been. It’s long overdue. Women are absolutely extraordinary and that’s why I loved being involved in Women in Defence.
What struck you most when judging applications?
It was the absolutely outstanding achievements and calibre of the people. Quite honestly I wasn’t sure I felt qualified to judge these people in that way, particularly some of the women out in active combat roles. The calibre was really high, particularly from younger women and their commitment to duty is astounding and very selfless. I really respected that. It was an absolute pleasure to judge the Awards and it was really difficult to choose between the women.
Why did you establish gender buzz? Was there a tipping point or was it a more gradual realisation?
“She said ‘is this what work’s going to be like’?”
Part of it came from my own working life but it’s also more than that. I started working in male dominated areas 20 years ago and experienced that gender difference from the outset. But really I became bored not just of work, but about everything in life revolving around gender. Seeing stereotypes applied and seeing how unhappy that made both men and women in their personal and professional lives, made me think, “why are we doing this?”
The real tipping point for me though came when I was mentoring a young woman at work and she asked me “is this what work’s going to be like?” and I thought I’d love to say ‘no’ but I’m going to say ‘yes’ because this is what it has been like for me. I felt really sad for her right there and thought I should be doing something about this. I can’t let another generation go through this. I’ve got the wherewithal to do something and the passion for it, so I will.
One of the things that struck the WiD group is that Genderbuzz® is about promoting equality for men as well.
Creation of the professional environment…
The society we live in has historically been created by men for men. It’s no judgement, that’s just the way society has been organised.. Historically we didn’t have many women in the workforce so the professional environment wasn’t created for them. Women were not equal in the workforce and still are not equal in the workforce as promotion and pay audits show, but that doesn’t mean it is a one-sided equation. True equality is where men and women are similar to each other on all scales and so you can’t not engage one gender in the discussion. We’re really talking about a reorganisation of society and that’s hard.
“I also feel very angry sometimes but I also know that progress won’t happen if half of the world’s population isn’t on board with it.”
It is a collective human effort to change ways of thinking that aren’t really serving all us any more. Women need to be championed because there are a lot of societal expectations that are there for women; that are not there for men and that is something that needs a lot of effort putting into it. But we also need to work with men and have them as our allies, because we are largely the same except for one chromosome. I say, let’s embrace that, and many, many people do.
As a women it can feel very lonely and disempowering to be operating in a society where you feel you are not equal. It can lead you to becoming very angry about things and sometimes I also feel angry, but I also know that progress won’t happen if half of the world’s population isn’t on board with it. We all know great men who aren’t sexist and probably some men who need some help with the fact that society is changing for them too. Let’s work together to create and mould that…