21 Women That Chose To Challenge

The Careerclub #choosetochallenge


“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.”

 IWD Charter

This year International Women’s Day focuses on challenging accepted behaviours and practices that allow gender inequity to continue. Women around the globe are being invited to “Choose to Challenge” to stand up to gender bias and to celebrate women’s achievements. 

The Careerclub has been designed to help women to excel in their careers and in their home lives, to find a balance that allows them to thrive. We believe that woman can ‘have it all’ how and when they want it. We are proud to celebrate International Women’s Day and to ‘Choose to Challenge’ alongside women across the world. In order to inspire our members, we’ve looked to successful women from different organisations, positions and professions who have achieved their goals through challenges they chose to take on. 


 I choose to challenge – Silencing my success


“I had been working at my company for five years. My colleagues were getting promoted, but I was constantly being overlooked. I knew that I was more qualified and more experienced than many of the men who were passing me by. So why wasn’t I climbing the ladder? I decided to challenge the management. I wrote a script stating what I had done to benefit the company over the past five years, I listed my successes and my achievements and then I requested a meeting and I told them why they needed to promote me. Within a month I had a new position. I realise now that while my male colleagues were boasting about their success and making sure everyone knew what they had done, I sat back with an attitude that my work would speak for itself. Well it didn’t. I learned that if you don’t blow your own trumpet no one else will. Men don’t hide their light under a bushel and neither should we. So I choose to challenge the ‘humble woman’ and instead I let my light shine.”

Sarah, Financial Services Sector



I choose to challenge – Maternity leave manoeuvres 


“When I was due to come back from maternity leave, I discovered that the girl who had filled in for me had done a fantastic job. The company obviously wanted to hang on to her, so they offered her a permanent position and informed me that I would be returning to a different role. I didn’t feel that this was a position that I would enjoy, but with the stress of returning to work and finding a creche I was tempted to just let it slide. It was a friend who suggested that I organise a meeting, before my return date, so that I could have some control over how and where I would work. I prepared for the meeting by thinking long and hard about where I would be most beneficial to the business and what job I wanted to do. The meeting was fantastic, my manager hadn’t realised that I had ambitions to work in another area and was happy to accommodate my wishes. I had thought that I would have to take whatever role they offered me, but I was underestimating my value to the company and the meeting let me see that they would work with me to ensure I stayed on board.”

Amanda, Banking Sector



I choose to challenge – Breastfeeding while back at work


“As the end date for my maternity leave loomed I was dreading stopping breastfeeding. I really wanted to keep it up, but I couldn’t see how I could manage to feed my child and do my job. I didn’t think there was another option, but then one day I saw New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talking about breastfeeding while at work and I thought, if she can do it and run a country, then surely I can manage it. I did some research and wrote a letter outlining the benefits of continuing to breastfeed, not only for me but for my son and for my company. I included statistics that showed that companies that support breastfeeding see increased employee retention, loyalty and engagement. One US study found that workplaces with lactation support programmes had a 94.2% post-maternity leave retention rate, compared to the national retention rate of 59%. I gave suggestions as to how I could continue to breastfeed with their support. These included spending my lunch break at my son’s creche, to feed him, as well as two breaks, in a private space where I could pump. I sent the letter as part of an email and I honestly thought they’d come back and say no way. But they didn’t. They agreed to support me on a trial basis and although there were a few hiccups at the start, it really worked. Now the company proclaim their ‘breastfeeding policy’ as an example of their progressive attitude and many women have taken advantage of it. I feel proud that I was the one to introduce this policy and I’m delighted that it has benefitted other moms.”

Elizabeth, Professional Services Sector



I choose to challenge – Lacking confidence 


I couldn’t get my act together to speak in public. I’d stutter and stammer and lose my place. I knew I was being judged on my performance and that made my nerves even worse. After speaking to a career coach I began to prepare and practice again and again. I presented in front of family and friends, and I let myself smile when I made a mistake instead of panicking.  I stopped saying “I’m not confident” and started saying  “I don’t feel confident about…” Then I’d practice until I did feel confident That not only helped bolster me in my presentations, it also made me feel more sure of myself in the rest of my career. I knew that if I could overcome those nerves, I could overcome anything.

Jane, PR Sector



I choose to challenge – My own gender stereotyping


“I asked my daughter to hang the wash on the line last week. I asked my son to rake the garden. I did it without even thinking, I assigned them their roles by their gender. When did that happen? When did I decide that there were girls’ jobs and boys’ jobs? I’m going to be much more aware of what I teach my children and how I ask them to help around the house, traditional roles will be mixed and matched, they both need to learn that they can do anything.”

Eileen, Retail Sector



I choose to challenge – How I support women


“Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women and I agree with her. I have worked with women who felt that the best way to get ahead was to join the ‘boys club’, to act like one of the lads and not only ignore sexual comments but encourage them. I will not stand on other women to get higher on the ladder. We need to work together, whether that’s support or advice or encouragement.”

Jackie, Tech Sector


I  choose to challenge – The guilt of being a parent


“I spent a long time worrying about what people thought about me if I took time off because my child was sick or if I had to work from home or leave early. I felt guilty, even though I knew I was getting my work done and nothing was being left to chance. Then one day it just hit me. I was making myself feel guilty, no one else was doing it, just me. All they cared was that my work was done, correctly and on time, after that they just didn’t care. They had their own things to worry about. The realisation gave me a new sense of freedom, now if I need to take some time to be a parent, I no longer feel guilty.”

Suzanne, Pharmaceutical Sector


I choose to challenge – the working late culture


“You know that guy? The guy that’s always working late? No matter what time you head home, he’s still there, calling “Heading off early? Haha” as you leave. Well, I hate that guy. In my end of year review, I was told that because I had children, I headed off early (on time) and I never worked late. That I should try and be more like ‘that guy’ because he put the extra hours in. Well, I wasn’t standing for that. I came back to my manager and asked “is my work ever late?” No. “Is my work ever below standard?” No “Is anyone else’s job delayed because they are waiting for me?” No. “So why are you complaining that I get my job done efficiently and in a timely manner, unlike that guy’ who works so slowly that he has to stay late to catch up with my progress? Being a parent means that I have learned to prioritize my time, to plan properly and to set up my day for success. Why do you feel the need to question my efficacy?” They had no answer and I refused to ever again feel guilty that ‘that guy’ was working later than me.”

Aisling, Media Sector


I choose to challenge – My micro parenting 


“I arrived home one afternoon to find my daughter in a summer dress over her favourite football teams jersey. And instead of freaking out that she looked ridiculous and I simply smiled. She was happy and so was he. You can either ask your husband to do something or tell him how you want it done. Not both. If you think you know best how to do it, then just do it yourself.  Let go of the need to control and remember your partner is an equal part of your parenting team, he is not one of your children, let go and delegate.”

Michelle, Banking Sector


I choose to challenge – Holding my tongue


“I am very chatty in normal life. But put me in a room full of colleagues or managers and suddenly I’m tongue-tied. I second guess everything before I say it, I doubt myself and when I do speak I almost whisper, no one can hear me.  At a meeting recently,  a question was raised about a particular problem. I had the solution. But by the time I had built up the courage to give my answer, the whole room was in debate and my suggestion was completely ignored. I was so infuriated by everyone talking over me and coming up with solutions that I knew wouldn’t work that I just lost it. I stood up in my seat and I used my “mom voice”, you know the one that comes out when someone’s left the ice-cream out of the freezer to melt? Yes, that one. Suddenly everyone was silent. I calmly told them my solution to the problem. There was silence for a second and then they agreed. I left the meeting walking on air and I have made a promise to myself to be more assertive about my opinions going forward. I’ve spoken to a career coach and they’ve given me tips like writing out points in advance or latching onto someone else’s statement. I know now that I don’t need to talk too much and I don’t need to over-explain. But I do need to believe in what I am saying. It’s made a difference to my confidence in all aspects of my life because I’ve realised that I deserve to be listened to.”

Niamh, Technology Sector


I choose to challenge – Hearing no


“I have heard ‘no’ many times in my career, when it came to pay negotiations, promotions and even simple things like time off. It effected my career, my home life and my confidence, especially when I saw that my male colleagues were hearing ‘yes’. I knew that I had to make a change, to refuse to accept the word ‘no’.  Now rather than decide that ‘no’ is the answer. I think about what I want. Why I want it. What it will take to get it. Why I deserve it and then I create a plan. There’s always a work around and there’s always another route to hearing ‘yes’. The answer might be ‘no’ due to timing or circumstance, it isn’t an indefinite answer, so if I hear ‘no’ now, I regroup, rethink and I ask again, from a different angle.”

Margo, Social Media Sector


I choose to challenge – Men not seeing inequality


“I work in a pretty male-dominated industry and over the years I’ve had to fight many battles against gender bias. But what I’ve discovered is that many men don’t even realise it is happening. It is completely off their radar. I’m talking here about nice guys, men with wives and daughters who they love and respect, they would never dream of discriminating against women themselves, but they don’t seem to notice when it happens around them or when they subconsciously do it themselves. Now when I see inequality or discrimination I point it out. I don’t harp on or nag, I just say “Did you see what Fred did there? he spoke over Sarah in that meeting. I wonder would he have done that if Henry was talking?” I don’t scold, I simply raise awareness and move on. I find that lots of men are surprised, but when they do take a moment to think, they realise that this is happening all around them and they’ve just been ignoring it.”

Claire, Telecoms Sector


I choose to challenge -  What my daughter sees


“My husband and I divorced a few years ago and after a while, I started seeing a new man. He wasn’t very nice, but my self-esteem was low and I was willing to put up with it. Then one day he was in my house and he said something derogatory to me. My daughter was with us and I saw the horror on her face. I realised then that if she saw me putting up with this kind of behaviour that she would think that was okay and she would allow men to speak to her like that as an adult. It gave me the push I needed to get rid of that man and I will never let her see me treated with anything other than respect from now on.”

Amanda, Media Sector


I choose to challenge – My negative voice

“I suffered with self-doubt for years, that little voice that constantly said “you’re not good enough” “you can’t do this”  I thought I was going crazy. BUT  when I spoke to a life coach, she made all the difference, she let me know that I am not the only person who has this voice, everyone does. It’s just some people choose to ignore it and some people can’t get rid of it. There are plenty of ways to combat that negative voice; meditation, (Eckhart Tolles on Youtube is perfect), exercise (who doesn't love 20 minutes with Joe Wicks), a walk with friends or distraction with a book or a podcast, can also help to silence the gremlin. You can also learn to turn that negative voice into a positive, drown out “I can’t do this” with “I can do this.” Just shout louder! A great trick I found was to give my voice its own identity and treat it like a person whose opinion I don’t value. It takes practice, but it is simply a habit that you need to break. I still hear that little niggly voice, but I know it only has power when I listen. So now I say ‘Shut up, I'm in charge !’ and I move on.”

Michelle,  founder of the Careerclub



I choose to challenge – My fear of progress


“I’ve been working at the same job for a few years now and I love it. I’ve seen a lot of colleagues come and go, but I am happy with this company and would prefer to progress within the organisation, rather than move elsewhere. However recently I have noticed that people that come in from outside or younger colleagues, seem to be moving up the ladder faster than me. Now I’m starting to feel threatened by fresh faces, who seem to be more up to date and more on the ball with new technologies and processes than I am. In a meeting the other day a new colleague happened to mention a course he had taken online to learn about developing technologies. I went back to my desk and looked it up. It seems very complicated and my first response was to think that I couldn’t do it, but then I thought why can’t I? So I’ve signed up, I think this could be the key to not only broadening my horizons, but it will also add to my value within the company. I can’t wait to get started.”

Nicole, IT Sector


I choose to challenge – Not valuing my time


“I’m always busy, but hey, I’m a working mum, of course, I’m busy. But I used to be busier. I used to be so busy that I made myself sick running here and there and trying to be everything for everyone. When I reached my breaking point and I became ill, my husband pleaded with me to slow down, to stop saying yes to everything. When I thought about it I came to the conclusion that he was right. I’d been saying yes to everyone who needed me, but I never stopped to think about what I needed for myself. I didn’t keep any time for myself, I gave it away as if I had an endless supply. So I changed my attitude and I smartened up my planning. Now I only say yes if I want to do something, I accept that my time is a precious commodity and I spend it wisely. I don’t try and do everything. I work, I’m a mum and I love to cook, so I spend my time doing those things. But I hate to clean, so instead of wasting my time dusting, I invested in a cleaner. I help out at the school cake sale because I enjoy it, but I let my husband get involved with the parent's sports committee and we say no to the community clean up. I choose to spend my time the way I want and I don’t feel guilty about delegating tasks or saying no. My time is valuable and I refuse to waste it.”

Pamela, Funds Sector


I choose to challenge – Not asking for support


“I don't know any man that feels overwhelmed any of the time, never mind most of the time. It seems to be a role that working mums have adopted. It used to infuriate me, I’d be stressed to the nines and my husband would say “sure it’ll be grand”.  Yes, that’s because I was doing it all.  But I decided to shake that up by simply telling the men in my life – my colleagues, boss, children, brothers, fathers what I needed.  I found that the trick is keeping it short, clear and simple. And use 'feeling' language so it doesn't come across as nagging or demanding. After all, if he demanded that you do something you can imagine how YOU would react. It would get your back up. 

So I said things at work like: 

I'm feeling overwhelmed. There is so much to do with this project. I need some extra hands to ensure that my team are able to finish on time. 

And at home I said:

I'm feeling exhausted. And then I let him respond, I was surprised by how willing he was to share the load.  If only I’d asked sooner!”

Susan, Food Technology Sector


I choose to challenge – Trying to be a man to get ahead


“You know that saying: “If you can’t beat them, join them?” Well, I lived by that rule. Working in a male-dominated industry I thought I had to act like a man just to keep up. But it didn’t work. I thought I had to be male to be alpha. But that wasn’t true. All that happened was I lost the strength and uniqueness of my feminine energy. That ability to be strong on the outside, but soft on the inside. I refused to be seen as soft, so I ignored my empathy, to the detriment of my team. I didn’t want to be seen as weak, so I acted in an overly aggressive way which just caused tension in the office. Looking back I wish I had known that I had the power to be a leader, and to inspire, and to be assertive, as a women. I didn’t need to emulate my male colleagues to show my strength, I was stronger when I stayed true to myself.”

Sophie, Legal Sector


I choose to challenge – Not putting myself first


“As a mother, I am used to putting other people’s needs ahead of my own. But I learned pretty quickly that when I did that in work, I lost out. When promotions started passing me by, I realised that I had to stop praising other people and learn some self-advocacy. I realised that I had to let my boss know that I was good at my job, better than many of my male colleagues, which goes against every part of what I would have liked to do. But I know now that if you don’t let people know how great you are, they’ll never know. When it comes to work, I come first and I’m not about to apologise for that.”

Deirdre, Pharmaceutical Sector



I choose to challenge – Being hungry


“You know those lunch meetings when they get in sandwiches? Well, I used to take one or two of the little triangles and then nibble on them. Like a lady. My male colleagues would dive in and scoff the lot, but when asked, I would say “Oh no, you go ahead, I’m full” which was complete crap. I was starving, but God forbid they should think that I was greedy. So I’d finish the meeting and then I’d be weak with hunger for the rest of the day. It was ridiculous. I soon learned that being hungry was no way to succeed in work. Now I fight for my share alongside the men and do you know what? Not one of them bats an eye, they don’t care how much I eat. They are all too busy trying to get their share before it’s all gone. If I’m going to be doing a lot of talking, or there are clients at the meeting and I don’t want to eat in front of them, I’ll grab a sandwich beforehand. But I will never go hungry again.”

Elaine, Professional Services Sector



I choose to challenge - Sexual harassment 

“While I believe that things have improved dramatically over the last few years, I still think we’ve got a long way to go in the fight against sexual harassment. What was considered light banter years ago is known to be unacceptable today, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Especially to younger women who may be starting out in the industry. We have a mentoring system in our office and I always try to reassure any of the new women that they can come to me if they are ever in a situation with one of our male colleagues where they feel uncomfortable or “icky”. I let them know that they don’t have to laugh it off or ignore it. They are perfectly within their rights to call the offender out and let them know that what they are doing is unacceptable. I hope that they know that they can trust me and I hope that women supporting women attitude is something  that they emulate in their careers going forward.”

Emma, Property Sector

Some Inspirational Quotes from women who #ChooseToChallenge


If you start to feel your voice heard, you will never go back.”

 Mary Robinson 

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.

Alice Walker

Strong men, men who are truly role models, don't need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful” 

 Michelle Obama

We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our to-do list” 

 Michelle Obama

A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink

 Gina Carey

A woman should be two things, who and what she wants.

Coco Chanel

"you may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Maya Angelou