Embracing a New Game and a New System: Celebrating International Women’s Day

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One early memory I have is being made to dress up in traditional Yugoslav folk costume and being dragged by my mum to the Commonwealth Institute in London to celebrate ‘the 8th of March’.  I didn’t really understand what it meant, none of my English friends celebrated it. I most certainly didn’t appreciate being made to wear this ridiculous outfit in Central London in the 1980s instead of my LA Gears and prized hyper colour t-shirt that changed colour where you were particularly warm, aka sweaty.


We always celebrated this day at home, one of the traditions that my parents kept when they moved here in the 1960s. It was a day for celebrating women and thanking us for the contribution that we made to society. I therefore wanted to take this moment to firstly say Happy International Women’s Day to all the wonderful women out there. I see you; I hear you and I celebrate you. Thank you for the significant contributions you make day in, day out. To those reading this today – please take a moment to celebrate your colleagues, your friends, your family members. Tell them how much they mean to you and how grateful you are for them.


The United Nations have chosen ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’ for this year’s International Women’s Day theme.  It resonated with me when I first read it as, in this simple statement, I could immediately see more than just a nice catchphrase. I could see a call to action with a clear benefit. Having recently joined Sullivan & Stanley, I wondered whether this theme resonated with my new colleagues and if so, what it meant to them. And so, I asked. The video in this blog features my colleagues, sharing their views. Please take a moment to watch it and hear their wonderful insights on inclusion, diversity, a brighter future for all…to highlight just a few themes.

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From a personal perspective, having spent almost 20 years now working in Technology Strategy & Transformation, I’ve seen significant changes and strides forward. From the early days of my career, I can remember when I was nearly always the only female on the team and sometimes the only female on the entire client office floor. I can recall ‘well-intentioned jokes’, things being said to me, about me that just wouldn’t fly today – thankfully.


I also recall having amazing leadership, colleagues, clients, and support overall which made me feel that the challenges I sometimes faced weren’t about the people around me so much as the systems around me. Let me give you an example. A meeting scheduled for 9am on a Monday morning. No big deal. In Frankfurt. When our team was based in London. I couldn’t fly on the Sunday due to personal commitments, but this was a pivotal moment in my career and my attendance in that meeting mattered. Colleagues quickly rallied around with all the right intentions “Don’t worry, we will cover it”. I should have felt relief, but I couldn’t get rid of a niggling feeling of disappointment. I had been ‘opted-out’ of an important meeting, and I didn’t like it. The default should have been ‘we will move the meeting Nat’. Don’t get me wrong, these things sometimes happen but they shouldn’t be the default answer. And they nearly always were due to the accepted ‘systems’ that we operated in which were tough for individuals to contradict. Looking back, I can see other moments where compromises and allowances were made with good intentions to ‘help me’. Did they have an impact on my career progression, on my confidence, on my feelings of belonging? Some may beg to differ, but I’d say yes. Instead of those compromises and allowances, what would have been helpful was to see all of us rallying to stop gaming the system and instead creating a new game and a new system for everyone, no matter which gender, ethnicity, or any other defining attribute we had.


So, for me, investing in women to accelerate progress means investing in defining a new system for all of us, which benefits all of us. Investing in redefining what leadership looks like. Investing in redefining what Performance Management looks like. Investing in redefining how we measure ‘value’ and what we mean when we say ‘productivity’. Investing in inspiring the future of work.


Today isn’t about sales pitches but I do want to acknowledge how I’ve landed on my feet at Sullivan & Stanley, a company whose vision is to inspire the future of work. Thank you to my colleagues for making this video but mostly, thank you for the wonderful welcome I have received. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more celebrated and more accepted for just being me. And thank you to one of our wonderful communities “Women in Transformation” where I’ve already enjoyed several inspiring breakfasts of swapping ideas and advice, sometimes therapy, sometimes entertaining anecdotes and always sharing insights (if you’d like to hear more about our community, just let me know).


Happy International Women’s Day everyone.


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Nataly Matic
Written by Nataly Matic
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