In the week that we celebrated International Women’s Day, it was amazing to see so many women speak up for what they believe in. As our timelines were filled with #breakthebias in favour of greater equality, I reflected on how far we’ve come as a society and particularly, investment industry.

When I spoke to our CEO & Founder Twink Field earlier this week, we remarked how inspiring it is to compare the current makeup of financial services with the picture from as little as ten years ago. Just within investment management, there are numerous strong female marketing leaders, each with their own style and personality, shining as role models for so many younger marketers.

Particularly refreshing for me is how different female leaders are today, and proudly so. Not that long ago, it seemed (from my perspective anyway) that you had to act a certain way to get to the top. Or to put it more bluntly: you had to be as manly as the male leaders.

Thankfully this has changed. We have made room for different types of leaders, and for women to be comfortable leading with their own style and personality.

While I’m very encouraged by this progress, I daresay we need to work much harder to give this message to the next generation of female leaders – specifically our younger girls (and boys).

What does it mean to be a girl?

As adults, we know that being a woman doesn’t mean wearing a dress, high-heeled shoes and pink lipstick. We now embrace the diversity of women leading the way in so many areas. Just think of how much our female rugby, cricket and football stars have done to advance broader participation in traditionally male sports.

But does our younger generation of girls – and boys – know this too? Do they know it’s OK to be a girl who likes tutus and football?

I’m not saying this isn’t happening, by the way. But I would argue we still hear too many references to phrases such as ‘tomboy’, in reference to girls who do things typically associated with boys. Too many teenage girls are still being bullied and labelled ‘odd’ if they don’t fit in with an outdated stereotype of being a girl.

So what if a girl likes climbing trees and hates dresses? They shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable being a girl who doesn’t act the way society believes girls should.

Build a sustainable world

Only once we are more welcoming to all manner of girls and women, can we have a chance at equality. If we embrace a diverse church of women, we pave the way for stronger, more sustainable businesses, because we aren’t excluding people who could potentially make a significant contribution.

This starts with the example we set for own children – girls and boys. We need to raise a generation of daughters who can be comfortable in their skin and not feel beholden to fit into a stereotype.

If they can learn from a young age that it’s OK to be a girl regardless of how they look, act or dress, this can free them to dream bigger and consider careers and industries they might not have previously.

Only if we nurture a more inclusive view of women, can we build a more sustainable world.

So, my big ask for this year is: can we make all girls feel welcome?