Webinar Highlights: Empowering Women in Instructional Design

10 March

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Webinar Highlights: Empowering Women in Instructional Design

To celebrate International Women’s Day, this months webinar we were joined by some influential women in the L&D industry to discuss the following:

  • How would you define empowerment and equality?

  • How to empower the women within Instructional Design and Digital Learning Industry.

  • How are women supported by the frameworks of and within their country to ensure gender equality?

For this discussion we were joined by guest speakers:

Our Moderator will be the Digital Learning Institute’s own course director, Eva Kilar Magdziarz.

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To begin with our course director, Eva introduced all the guest speakers and their experience in the learning and development industry.

What is your role in your job and what makes you a strong woman in the field?

Marie-Claire begins with her career as an eLearning manager. She believes her role is a combination of instructional design and the development of eLearning for the company Marie-Claire works for, Sales teacher CPD. Part of her job is to enable educational advisors she works with to make best use of the technology available in order to deliver their trainings. Marie-Claire believes what makes her strong is her soft skills in communication. Her strong communication skills allows her to connect with and deliver to her educational advisors.

Pamela role mainly involves training, from holistic training to product based training. The past couple of years she has added the element of module design to make her training more creative. Pamela’s experience in education having been a teacher and a tutor of not the most tech savvy lecturers, being a chatter box having the ability to communicate and also speak up for herself and others in meeting etc all while keeping a work life balance makes her a strong woman in her job.

Larissa works in the financial services industry and a lot of her work is compliance and employee development training. Her role in a nutshell includes anything from lesson development, content curation, graphic design, motion design, copyrighting, developing learning marketing strategies and running out lessons on her learning platform. Larissa believes her varied skill set, her commitment to being a life long learner and how she embraces change are qualities that make her a strong woman in her field.

Ivona’s role involves training and coaching and also works with varies different companies in Romania and in Europe developing and leading different kinds of events from 1:1 sessions to team trainings and also large events. Working as an external facilitator has its challenges but also holds opportunities. Her “superpower” as a woman is her passion for learning which stems from her grandmother who told her that you are never to old to learn. Ivona is always looking to learn new things from the people she meets not only for her professional career but also in her personal life.

How would you define equality and empowerment?

Marie-Claire shared with us that she saw a quote that empowerment is essentially three things, that you are healthy, respected and well paid. She believes that empowerment can come from a number of places for example at a national level when governments put policies in place that can empower woman not only in equality but in general. But also at a company level to get into a habit of doing it ourselves and not depending on people we work with.

Equality for Marie-Claire means being flexible with work/ office spaces especially with management as covid proved that you can work remote and still be successful in leadership roles. The request for flexible working patterns doesn’t mean you are incapable for the job and shouldn’t affect pension, promotion ladder etc.

Pamela take on empowerment and equality is that it is an ideal universe but in reality some employers take care of their employees and in the other hand there is still a battle that we have to fight for all of us. Pamela agrees with Marie-Claires take and stresses the importance of collaboration and flexibility. If people have a disability or a baby or if somethings happened within your family there needs to be flexibility and collaboration all around, because if we don’t work together she believes empowerment and equality can exist

Ivona believes that empowerment is the power of making your voice heard, giving yourself permission to rule your life, gain control and become the best version of yourself. Finding a place where you can grow and be accomplished and having the freedom to do this. In terms of equality for Ivona this means having equal access to opportunities not only in employment but also in education and healthcare. She believes its up to us to make the changes, we may not have the power for big change but we can change the environment around us and encourage other woman around us on the road for equality.

Larissa take from a recent thesis she read was that true empowerment in life is individual accountability and your own decision making. Equality comes into the picture by having a safe space and opportunity to share your voice, your thoughts and ideas and basically being acknowledged as a person with something of value to contribute.

How can you empower yourself and women around you in the workplace?

Larissa begins with her strong belief that knowledge and information is power. She empowers herself with continues learning and constantly developing new skills to stay relevant in an ever-changing world. To empower other woman around her she shares what she has learnt through collaboration and mentoring. This includes sharing any tips and tools she discovers or developing learning materials for simpler ways of achieving areas of her expertise. Larissa also believes that empowerment lies in exposure to diversity, learning different values and beliefs to gain a fuller picture will empower you to make better and more informed contributions.

Ivona empowers herself by empowering others around her it builds her own self confidence and also makes the women around her gain confidence and empowerment. For Ivona it is a two way street but she also resonates with the idea of your own development. The next is different opportunities to exchange ideas, to be present at professional networking and looking for different opportunities to exchange ideas at associations or events. The third way similar to Larissa is being a role model and mentoring. This year Ivona had the opportunity to work as a coach for teenage girls and helped them with their development to be more confidents and more prepared, having the right skill sets to become better and better no matter the context.

Pamela adds that continuous training and exposure to different things is key but also thinks in order to progress in work you need to personally develop too. If you do things in your personal time and give back it can make a huge difference. For example Pamela is a volleyball coach and is also a volunteer coach in the primary schools in the area. She is also a parents governor in her daughters primary school. This exposure to everyday educational institutes and children’s development has been great awareness for her and has been able to learn from it and bring forward in her professional career.

In general what empowers Pamela, other woman and anyone is listening to advice, be ready to give advise when necessary, offer support all around in order to create a community feel wherever you go. That sense of community is really important for empowering women because if you’ve achieved something and are proud of it and there is no-one around to support you it may feel more like a failure than a success.

Marie-Claire agrees with all the other speakers on how they empower themselves and other women. She believes that woman have a good instinct of new trends and things that are going to become important to peoples working lives. Recognising that not just women but anyone doesn’t have to follow a ladder anymore that moving in your career involves sidesteps and in and out of different organisations and sectors to really nail down what your skills are and what you do in your role is really empowering for Marie-Claire.

Eva our course director also added that having diversity and also having somebody there to challenge us on an ongoing basis so your not sitting by the table discussing and agreeing all the time. Having these challenges would be empowering.

How respected are women’s voices?

Pamela believes that if it’s a smaller setting than your voices are heard and listened to, she also stresses that being heard and listened to are two different things and while your voice may be heard you might not be listened to. When it comes to bigger organisations that when our voices may get lost. In small circles we are able to show of our skills and contribute whereas in larger circles we have to fight more to show our skills and be heard and listened to.

She believes we still have a long way to go. In writing everything is for us, everything is for equality and we are protected. By law no discrimination in pay, no sexual harrasment and no barriers for women in our personal lives or in the workplace but in reality we have to fight constantly for that recognition.

So we need to have the courage to stand up for ourselves and for our colleagues to make things better.

Marie-Claire adds to what Pamela was saying that there is always a risk in being portrayed negatively. There’s a bit difference being assured and assertive to being arrogant depending on how people perceive you. As long as you know yourself and can prove yourself and your skills then you have a powerful voice and have a lot to say and a lot to bring. We need to challenge that unconscious bias that’s coming from the people listening to us.

Ivona states that we deserve to have our voices heard because we could bring so much value to whatever’s on the table. If our voices aren’t being heard because of unconscious bias we need to reflect this and bring this issue up and talk to our counterparts about it.

Larissa adds that we should never underestimate our own role and it important for us to speak up. If we keep silent in the presence of bad behaviour we are teaching people how to treat us. If we are not letting our voices be heard and saying this is unacceptable we are allowing that bad behaviour to happen and building it further to become a culture within an environment.

Another thing to be considered is that you retain talent by the environment you create. If you’re going to create and environment where people don’t feel valuable and heard, especially women, you’re going to lose valuable insights and contributions because at the end to the day they will leave you.

Advice for women returning to work and gaining that recognition?

Larissa warns us because as women we are sometimes prone to work towards unrealistic expectations in order to prove ourselves, which can ultimately lead to a burnout. Since the pandemic women are disproportionately affected by burnout, stress and exhaustion especially compared to our male counterparts. The result is women scaling down on their career goals or even leaving the workforce entirely. Her advise is if you’re not learning or earning then it’s time to leave.

Pamela agrees with Larissa and also get you to question did they value you before? If they don’t then gain as much experience and then take it elsewhere. The years of being a stay at home mum should be considered as valuable experience at it is a full time job where you are learning leadership skill and project management skills.

Eva adds that coming back from a career break, from maternity leave can be difficult but her advise is to just own it. Come back strong and know your worth within the company.

Ivona shares a message to say you are not a tree, you should move to another place and grow higher.

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