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International Women’s Day 2021: Choose To Challenge

Marked annually on the 8th March, International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, as well as a call-to-action for progressing gender parity.

While IWD is now recognising 110 years since it’s first gathering, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 states that it will still take more than a lifetime to make equality a reality. To be specific, gender parity will not be attained for another 99.5 years.

Consequently, there still remains a huge amount of work ahead of us to close the gender gap and, as such, the theme for this year’s IWD is ‘Choose To Challenge’. A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. So let's all #ChooseToChallenge. 

The IWD initiative strives towards 6 ‘missions’ ranging from women’s health, to women’s empowerment, and women in sport. However, the Gender Gap Report reveals that the greatest challenge preventing gender parity is the under-representation of women in emerging roles. As such, Pole Star has chosen to focus on the two missions most relevant to that and our company; women at work, and women in technology.

Mission: To forge inclusive work cultures where women's careers thrive and achievements are celebrated.

While the number of women in senior roles has increased globally, the figure of women filling the private sector’s senior management positions and acting as public sector officials still remains at only 36% (a 2% increase on last year).

A key finding from the Gender Gap Report is the importance of positioning women in leadership, to not only have the power to make real change within the workplace and wider society, but also to inspire other women to succeed. As such, progressive companies are those that break down barriers for women to move into leadership roles initially and engage with them going forwards to decrease the gender gap even further.

Mission: To celebrate digital advancement and champion the women forging innovation through technology.

Another key problem identified in the report was a decrease in women’s financial equality. Reportedly, this is caused by technology and mechanisation replacing many women’s jobs, in conjunction with women not securing the higher salary positions within the tech industry. 

With a new tech revolution comes the creation of new jobs, yet women are not filling these roles. In order to address these issues, organisations must not only take a diverse approach when hiring, but provide opportunities for women to learn the new skills necessary to advance within the world of technology.

At Pole Star we recognise that equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue, and that gender parity is essential for companies, economies, and communities to thrive. Historically the maritime and technology industries have been highly male-dominated, with only 5% of jobs in tech being held by women. However, this year we have almost tripled the number of women on our management team, opening up the floor to new perspectives and opportunities.

As part of our IWD celebrations, we’re spotlighting some of the key members of Pole Star’s management team and their roles as women in a leading maritime technology company, as well as their thoughts on the future of women in the workplace:

Ana Martins, Delivery & Release Manager.

“The best thing about being a woman in tech, is that we're part of an exciting and impactful change. It is incredibly rewarding working in this industry; being challenged to constantly improve, innovate, and learn, but also to inspire other women and girls to pursue careers in STEM. There are still challenges in this male-dominated industry and we have to fight against stereotypes, which can sometimes rear their ugly heads in subtle ways. It’s not always an easy task finding the right company where our career will be nurtured.

Representation matters. Understanding what options are available to us, even being able to dream about what we want to become is incredibly difficult when we don't see anyone who shares our identity in that role. As Marian Wright Edelman says, "it's hard to be what you can't see" (https://bit.ly/2NZpmkH). Women in leadership roles create space for other women and empower them to pursue careers and professional goals they wouldn't have considered otherwise. It also makes sense for business value, research shows that diversity of thought leads to better results and better problem solving (https://mck.co/3bVcbZX). There's also evidence that having more women in leadership roles leads to increased revenue (https://bit.ly/3sNBNP4).

I'd like to think the future in the workplace is promising and exciting for women; we've already made such great progress in equality and reducing the gender gap. But shockingly, a recent report by PwC found that 78% of those who lost their jobs at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic were women. Other reports show that women are at much higher risk of losing their jobs in the age of automation (https://mck.co/3uRIt0L). To reverse this trend we need to enable women to move to higher-skilled, more tech-savvy jobs. Representation becomes critical for the future of women”.


Alexandra Manos, Marketing & Communications Manager.

“At Pole Star, it's easy at times to forget or become complacent about the fact that only around a quarter of the workforce working in tech is female, and only 5% of females in this sector hold leadership positions. It's a privilege to work somewhere surrounded by women who advocate for each other and for themselves, who hold established leadership roles and do a truly fantastic job. That being said, as a historically male-dominated field, it can often take twice the effort for women to have their ideas heard, and unconscious bias remains an issue that needs training and active individual efforts to improve. 

One of the reasons why there are less women in tech leadership roles, is that the field only recently began marketing itself as one that would "appeal" to women. The more women that take on leadership roles in this field, the more role models that will exist for those considering their career. I can only hope that diversity as a whole continues to improve across workplaces. There remains a lot of work to be done, particularly now with the COVD-19 pandemic having been shown to negatively impact women's careers more than men's. There have been significant milestones and achievements being reached, but this does not mean we should become complacent, nor does it mean that we can rely solely on diversity quotas in order to truly achieve gender equality. 


Nancy Chrysanthopoulou, International Key Account Manager - Government & Maritime.

“I have been working for more than 25 years in senior managerial positions across the IT industry. The industry is an environment at the cutting edge of technology, so I am always facing something new and exciting. Like many women, I faced the challenge of having my kids, while working hard and travelling a lot. But, I believe that with willpower and positivity, especially if you are happy in your work, any challenge can be dealt with.

Working in multinational companies with policies and procedures regarding sexual discrimination, equal salaries and benefits for both sexes, along with different countries’ working mentalities, gave me the chance to see many of my female colleagues taking on higher positions. Women are highly educated, target oriented multitaskers and problem solvers; all these factors make them equal candidates to a man for any role. In the new world of work after the pandemic, women will find their place adopting new knowledge, new skills, mobility, and technological access. If these transitions are successfully navigated for women, there is a huge opportunity to move into more productive, better paid, and possibly more fulfilling employment”.


Sana Mahmood, Financial Controller.

“My roles have evolved from reporting financial performance to finding ways of improving financial performance through the use of tech. Every day there is a new challenge which keeps me on my toes and reminds me I’m no longer just an accountant.

Women carry leadership naturally; they recognise the need for developing others and therefore are more collaborative than competitive. Time and time again women have proven their multi-tasking abilities; during the pandemic this has been tested again! Working remotely, they have overcome the challenges of inclusion and motivation, all whilst ensuring their personal lives are unaffected. The future is bright for women as we have proven we can manage work responsibly and not compromise on productivity, regardless of the challenges we are faced with”.


Lindsay Blackman, Head of Human Resources.

“It’s great working with a bunch of clever people that are innovative and agile with their new ways of thinking and solving problems. You lead by example, have the behaviours and professional approach to work, manage projects and tasks, deliver the results, and be inspiring to others. Personally, lockdown gave me the time to be present in the moment and think creatively about solutions to new challenges. Trailblazing female leaders open doors and set a pathway for others to follow. My top tip is – believe in yourself and be the leader you would like to have. 

Women are natural collaborators and indeed talk through our problems to get to the answers and, as such, diversity and inclusion are now high on the agenda. The future is bright for this diverse workforce with improved productivity and creativity, and I can see we will experience more hybrid and flexible working arrangements. A move to increased sustainability, wellbeing, and giving women at Pole Star more flexibility to support a better work-life balance.”


Emma McRedmond, Global Customer Support Manager.

"The perk of working at Pole Star is 100% working with beautifully smart people that I consider it a privilege to learn from and with. No challenge is too big. This is both empowering and motivating as we evolve in the tech industry and lead with innovation, customer centric success, and experience. I think it's important that companies do this well, while also being fully representative of women and minorities - something I am very passionate about. I think the challenge is encouraging more women to uptake tech roles and accelerate those in these positions. With that being said, with the global pandemic increasing our reliance on tech, this is changing in a positive way.

Biases remain against women in leadership roles and I can say that it hasn't always been easy, especially in the male-dominated Maritime industry. However, women are rising to senior levels and, what is significant, is that many companies have a supportive system in place. I think diversity in the workplace is the future and it's our job to strive for and support this. Work-life balance has come to the forefront recently for women, men, single parents, minorities, everyone, so it's important that we support it and each other. On a business level, supporting customers in the same regard is absolutely paramount".


Fiona Tillett, Legal Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer.

“I can honestly say no day in my role is the same. As tech evolves I am challenged to think more creatively and work collaboratively across the industry. Tech lawyers have to be innovative, so it has never been a typical commercial/corporate role; it’s addictive and exciting to rise to the challenge! Whether leading projects or people, women in tech are strong leaders and I am fortunate to have inspiring women as my role models - many that have transposed life skills into their roles, which I believe is key to success. With the light shining on work-life balance, and increased emphasis on the value and importance of relationships throughout the pandemic, women’s natural strength and adaptability has, I believe, come to the forefront, bringing value to business, while creating greater equality and visibility of working women”.


To read the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, click here.

To meet some of Pole Star’s diverse global team, click here.


Join some of this week’s free online IWD events:

10 March - International Women's Day: From Resistance to Resilience (W.I.T. Republic)

10 March - From Allies to Mentors, How to Build and Nurture a Support Network

11 March - Rising to the Challenge: Overcoming Inner Trip-ups and Positioning Yourself for Success (Wagora)

Find out more