Six women who choose to challenge for International Women’s Day 2021

Choose to challenge this IWD

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to Challenge’ – and it’s especially fitting given how challenging the past year has been. 

Yet we know that you, and teachers like you, have always been resilient. You are continually overcoming obstacles and seeking new and innovative ways of working. And, regardless of the circumstances, you lend support to your communities and students whenever you can. 

At Pearson, we’ve really taken this year’s theme of ‘Choose to Challenge’ to heart. As such, we’d like to share a few examples from inspiring women from around the globe to show you exactly how we’re embracing this objective. 

1. Agnieszka Bender: Vocally challenging the status quo

Choose to ChallengeAgnieszka is the Digital Marketing and Brand Manager for Pearson Central and Eastern Europe. She tells us that this year’s International Women’s Day tagline ‘Choose to Challenge’ makes her think about the skilled, accomplished, and strong woman she meets every day – in her private and professional life. 

“I am constantly reminded of the necessity of being vocal and active in challenging the status quo,” she says. “Remembering the work of Polish feminist icon, professor, and theoretician of literature Maria Janion, I feel there is strength and solidarity in women and men and the fight for equal rights and opportunities.” 

Agnieszka and her team are taking a proactive approach to addressing challenges in society. 

“Together, with a passionate group of colleagues from our employee resource group, Women in Learning and Leadership Europe, we are identifying and tackling gender-based issues, to strengthen the position of women both inside and outside Pearson,” she continues. 

“Our purpose is to secure equal resources and career development opportunities, and to keep the conversation around gender equality going.”

Agnieszka Bender, Digital Marketing and Brand Manager for Pearson Central and Eastern Europe, Co-Chair Women in Learning and Leadership EU, D&I Advocate 

2. Muna Mazhar: Breaking down gender and racial stereotypes

Choose to Challenge Muna

Muna Mazhar advocates for pushing your limits and having those difficult conversations when they are needed. 

“I choose to challenge because we must work hard and move out of our comfort zones to have courageous conversations, learn from each other, and change the status quo for the better,” she says.  “I’m involved in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, so that I can be part of a positive change in breaking down the barriers of gender and racial stereotypes, to move towards a place where we can all see people like us at every level and in all walks of life.”

Muna is a firm believer that we all have something of value to offer society and the workplace.

“It’s important to get to a place where we understand different experiences and perspectives and truly value what each one of us brings to the table,” she says.

Muna Mazhar, Head of Global Market Development  

Listen now to the Pearson English podcast episode on gender equality in publishing. 

3. Freya Thomas Monk: Standing against inequality 

Choose to challenge FreyaFreya Thomas Monk is a Senior Vice President at Pearson. She takes active steps to support DEI initiative in her every day work 

“I choose to challenge whenever I see actions and words that deter diversity, equity and inclusion. I also choose to challenge myself to practice and promote equality every day, knowing that my ongoing vigilance and learning is really important to me, my family and the teams I am lucky enough to work with at Pearson,” she says. 

Freya recognizes that shifting the status quo and standing up for equality requires a huge joint effort.

“Thank you to the many hundreds of Pearson colleagues who devote their hearts, minds and time to our DEI initiatives every day, your work could not be more important and impactful,” she says.

Freya Thomas Monk, Senior Vice President, English Assessment, Pearson.

4. Sasha Hampson: Actively changing the narrative

Choose to challenge SashaSasha Hampson is the Vice President, English & English Assessment at Pearson. She takes the view that we can’t simply exist within conditions we do not accept.

“I choose to challenge because the standard we walk by is the standard we accept. It may be uncomfortable at times but by challenging gender stereotypes and bias we can change the narrative,  and in doing so influence beliefs that prevent gender inequality,” she says.

Sasha Hampson, Vice President, English & English Assessment. Sasha has experience in leading PTE partnerships and driving PTE growth in APAC for more than a decade.



5. Melanie Drake: Paying attention and challenging inequality

Mel choose to challenge IWD 2021Melanie Drake is a Teacher Training Manager at Pearson. Like Freya, she acknowledges that change requires a consistent team effort. 

“Participating in She Leads Change is about joining forces with extraordinary women, passionate about creating a positive social change in the world, she says. “When you gather a group of driven, like-minded females together, there’s something about the energy in the room that is truly unique.”

Melanie makes an important point: it’s not just about intention, it’s about attention:

“We need to make the choice every day, over and over, to pay attention, challenge inequality and CELEBRATE US… that is for me, what International Women’s Day is all about.”

Melanie Drake, Teacher Training Manager. Melanie is a member of the She Leads Change cohort and is involved in the international Professional Development space.

6. Marlene Olsavsky: Embracing who you really are

Choose to challenge MarleneMarlene Olsavsky rounds everything up with a simple, yet powerful piece of advice for International Women’s Day:

“Embrace your whole self, your magic and mess, and everything in between – be you and don’t let others define who you are.”

We completely agree Marlene!

Marlene Olsavsky, Managing Director, Canada 

Are you celebrating International Women’s Day at your school or Institution? Let us know how in the comments!


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