Women should not have to change or conform to advance in business
For most of Maj Rames’ career, she has represented a minority. As an Army officer, bench press world champion, and now as a Project Manager at Systematic, her journey in male-dominated fields has been fuelled equally by interest and a drive to prove that gender plays no role in performance.
From military deployment on the plains of Afghanistan to the peaks of competitive powerlifting, it would seem that Maj Rames has made a point of excelling in male-dominated fields. Instead, she has simply followed her passions – paying no regard to gender norms along the way.
“When I became an officer, only 5-10 per cent of applicants were women. It was the hardest physical education I knew of, that also offered a diverse academic curriculum, and that really attracted me. While there is certainly some gender bias in the army, it quickly disappears once you carry the same 30-kilo backpack side-by-side with your male colleagues, regardless of whether your body weight is 60 or 90 kilos,” Maj says.
“We were four women in my class, and we supported each other throughout our time at the academy. It’s easy for women to try to conform and fit into a male-dominated culture. But if you do, you end up losing your authenticity and the benefits of diversity. The army has taught me the value of being myself and not trying to be one of the guys just to fit in.”
Moving to the civilian job market
After seven years in the army, Maj decided to move to civilian life to eventually start a family. The informal tone, flexibility, and diversity in the private sector contrasted with her life in the army. Today, those are some of the aspects she has come to appreciate in her work life.
“The army is streamlined, so it was a big change to get a civilian and ‘normal’ job. In the army, you wear the same clothes, and use the same equipment and expressions. When I started in my first civilian job, it was fantastic to have colleagues very different from myself, and I really valued suddenly having female colleagues,” Maj says.
“I was deployed to Afghanistan early in my career, so I knew I would face more deployments. While I certainly welcomed the challenge, being away from your kids for six months on a deployment just wasn’t how I wanted to be a mother– and so, that became one of the deciding factors in my move. Today, I am part of a young team where most of us are parents. For the first time in my career, I have a female manager, and I think that’s inspiring.”
A chance to celebrate differences
While often being the only woman in the room has taught Maj the value of diverse viewpoints, she is acutely aware that not all minorities know the value of their perspective – and how their outlook can help unlock new solutions and introduce intelligent alternatives to the status quo.
She hopes that Systematic’s new women’s network, Headway, can offer a space of empowerment and help open more eyes to the many benefits of diversity.
“I understand that having a space for women can be polarising. However, I know from experience that women can be an important support for each other. I hope our network will help create an authentic space for empowerment and honest sparring where we can lean on each other and lift each other.