It is no secret that there is still many gender-specific challenges women face in the workplace. From pay discrimination, gender bias, stereotyping, sexual harassment, a lack of representation, and a lack of available and protected rights to family leave to subtler issues around unpaid labor in the office, there are many obstacles’ women continue to face when they enter the workforce. It is not a lack of ambition, but rather the challenges women confront at work that cause them to give up on or lose interest in advancement. To all women leaders, Kimberley Davidson, the CEO and Director of The Wee Souk, proclaims, “Toxic Masculinity is the issue—not you.”
In order to bring about change, Kimberley believes outdated and unhelpful stereotypes and attitudes towards women and men and their respective roles need to change, whilst simultaneously developing policy and legislation.She has motivated many leaders with her work and simultaneously accomplished various milestones in her career. She has an experienced background in non-profit fundraising and communications, and her work has taken her all over the world, including Tunisia, Palestine, Chile, Sweden, and, of course, her beloved country.
Kimberley has always felt a sense of obligation to use her art to challenge accepted industrial norms. However, after working more than a decade in the non-profit sector, she felt a disconnect with her true motive, further than ever from catalyzing any real change, and often worried that in many ways she was just ‘propping up’ the status quo. Henceforth, she began her venture, The Wee Souk. With the business, she can set the agenda required to make an impact in ways that are significant to her. “It might be helping to support women’s economic empowerment on a smaller scale than a large organization, but I believe working as directly as possible with the women is the route to change,” says Kimberley. Often, she wonders, “If I’m on the right path spiritually in terms of my career and the business, I think of Khadija. The wife of the prophet, who was mature and independent, found a wonderful husband who worked for her and championed her.” Kimberley’s faith has been her actual source of strength, enabling her to let go of any worry that she will fail in her role as a leader.
Handcrafted with love
Initially, Kimberley laid the foundation of The Wee Souk as a sole trade that later became incorporated in April 2022. The Wee Souk curated a carefully selected selection of accessories that were beautifully handcrafted by Tunisian artisans of extraordinary talent. After starting as an online shop, she and her team discovered that the majority of their revenue came from attending markets and events, and as a result, they have now launched their first physical location in the Scottish Borders. The company is the Women’s Economic Empowerment Souk. It aims to work directly with manufacturers so they get paid fairly for their time and ability and sell handcrafted home goods and gifts created by women. She describes her business as a values-based brand, seeking to disrupt the system to achieve equity.
Kimberley is adamant that the work done by her company is sparking fire for many women throughout the world. Every product that The Wee Souk sells offers the opportunity to get to know, support, and advocate for a woman and her value. It is a known reality that in many male-dominated industries, women are still facing workplace-related obstacles. Kimberley believes toxic masculinity exists in all parts of society, including the workplace. Personally, it is not something she has ever felt pressured to partake in – but she has left numerous jobs because of it. She says that “sometimes men are the protagonists, and sometimes it’s women who have internalized these traits—and who can blame them?”
Kimberley personally dealt with such high-powered men who stigmatize a person of firm caliber to appear nice. She has also encountered prejudice because she did not attend a private school or an established university. “Perhaps most challenging of all was the emotional load of life for my daughter and myself that I carry, and that the vast majority of women carry whether married or not whilst holding down a job or career,” she adds. Further, she suggests that this emotional labor must be divided if one wants true equity for women in the workforce.
Kimberley is a politically left-leaning woman, raised by working-class parents. Currently, she is a single mother who is striving to make better changes in her life and improve things for herself. “This is not a top-down approach; this is demanding what we all deserve and are worth,” she mentions. She listens to positive affirmations in the morning and at night. Her perfect day off would be near the seaside, sharing coffee and conversing with like-minded people. She also likes reading books that advance her knowledge and provide self-help. She thinks that the care responsibilities that working women bear in addition to their jobs cause the most stress. “It is difficult to boycott this because our family and our children will be the ones who lose out. But I think we need to go on strike quite honestly until men take their share,” she firmly mentions.
"Perhaps most challenging of all was the emotional load of life for my daughter and myself that I carry, and that the vast majority of women carry whether married or not whilst holding down a job or career,"
Doing the right thing
Kimberley has presented the true passion that being an entrepreneur entail. She has significantly contributed to assisting women in achieving success in fields that are heavily controlled by men. She urges aspiring female leaders to collaborate with male allies while be curious and assertive rather than scared to demand what they are worth.
Kimberley reminisces that she left a wonderful promotion opportunity due to self-sabotaging. Nevertheless, she is pursuing what she once dreamed of—”but the wrong choice took me off course for a number of years both personally and professionally,” she exhales. Regardless of the setbacks she may have faced, she made the best of her journey and attained a pedestal on which she stands proudly. This explains her impeccable personality, which is persistent in doing things differently and ethically, even when it involves a risk.
“I would rather fail with pride than succeed full of shame,” concludes Kimberley.