March 8 is International Women's Day, and I hear the internet trolls going, "What about International Men's Day?" You do have one, it's on November 19.
Next thing I should probably do is tell you about my credentials to share my opinion. I am a woman. More specifically, a young, ethnic woman, and CEO of a mental health social enterprise called Clearhead.
The statistics of gender bias against women are pretty depressing, and even more so when you look at the intersectionality of discrimination, where the powerful combination of racism and sexism comes to play. I'm just going to put this out there: there is just one CEO among the Fortune 500 tech companies that is run by an ethnic woman - AMD CEO Lisa Su at number 448.
Inspiring words from #spokenword #poet #AnisaNandaula as a she makes a powerful call to mobilize people everywhere to step forward, not be silent, and to #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021 👏🏾 pic.twitter.com/nt426zhNVw— Women's Day (@womensday) March 7, 2021
Whether it's my time as a medical doctor, running my own health tech company, or sitting on boards. I've come to experience the "harmless" and insidious effects of the "tax" society place on me because of my double X chromosome. On the regular and across all those roles, that means having to jump through more hoops than if you're a white male.
It means smiling through comments at board meetings when patronising older men say stuff like, "you speak really well, not just a pretty face". Meanwhile, I bite my tongue to not mention that I went to Harvard to complete my research sabbatical and have sat on more boards than he has.
Or when I am trying to transform the health sector to be more consumer-centric through my role as CEO of Clearhead, whereby our online platform empowers everyday New Zealanders to make informed choices on assessing the state of their mental health; pick the therapists they want to see at a time that is convenient for them; and have that support be available when and where they need it.
Instead, I get dismissed at having a seat at the table because I'm not part of the "Wellington circuit", which incidentally is pale, male and stale. Surprised? Well, that's a story for another day.
Tomorrow is International Women's Day. What a wonderful reminder to all of us women: Never forget to stand up for yourself, your rights and your freedom. Be brave! You deserve the world.#WomensDay #IWD2021 pic.twitter.com/uSPoqkoDIe— TinaTurner (@LoveTinaTurner) March 7, 2021
However, I wanted this piece to be one of hope and to share the lessons I've learnt through being a female thought-leader and founder in the healthcare sector.
The first is that life isn't fair and we will need to continue to work on the systemic issues on equity, including the socio-economic factors that prevents individuals from getting the opportunity to at least be at the same starting line as someone who is a privileged white guy.
The second is that as a woman, you are more likely to face scepticism from both men and sometimes more harshly by other women.
In case you didn't notice, I spent most of this article prefacing my "credentials". That is what the effect the gender bias has on women. For every conversation we undertake, we have to prove ourselves first in order to be taken seriously, in my case the bar to clear was eight years earning a medical degree.
I know it's sh*tty, but to be honest, these are the hurdles to being a successful person. As a woman, I have to clear the majority of the barriers up front, whereas a man would be given the benefit of the doubt to just try.
As someone who migrated to NZ when I was 15 and grew up in a middle-class family, I started with no networks, no wealth handed down, and no family legacy of doctors.
Regardless, if your end game is to be successful, then every glass ceiling you break gets you one step closer to where you ultimately want to be, as long as you don't give up.
When you get to that point, you can then contend with tall poppy syndrome instead. Don't even get me started on the backlash I face being a confident young woman in New Zealand.
Anyways, my point is the path to success for anybody is hard and, as a woman, you just have to prove you've got what it takes up front. For everyone else, a word of warning, if you ever meet a successful woman, you best not mess with her.
• Dr Angela Lim, medical doctor and CEO of Clearhead.