International Women’s Day conjures up mixed feelings for me. Firstly – and in a positive light – it reminds me how far we have come, but also unfortunately it also makes me reflect on how much further we still have to go to reach gender parity for our future generations. I recently found out at an event put on by My Confidence Matters that The World Economic Forum estimates that we are still 108 years away from gender equality. That is crazy sad, most of all because, for me, it means that my two-year-old daughter won’t work in a world where we reach the tipping point for equality.
However, I am full of hope that together we can start to accelerate this tipping point. And certainly, the comments below from everyone I spoke to for this blog reminds me that it’s only through working together, cheering one another on and championing change that we can actually make a measurable long term difference.
Lynn Morrison, director of The Marketing Chair explained to me that IWD always has a special place in her heart on account of it being her younger daughter’s birthday. She said, “In 2011, I was a week shy of my due date, heavily pregnant and plagued with false contractions. When my eagle-eyed mother-in-law suggested I hold off giving birth until the 8th of March, I will confess to threatening to strangle her. So, no one was more delighted than she was to phone us every year on International Women’s Day to wish my youngest daughter a happy birthday. Growing up in the States, I never knew that International Women’s Day existed. It didn’t gain traction in the US until social media channels gave us a platform to share information and create a dialogue around it. Nowadays, I count the days until we celebrate. Every time I look at my daughter, I am reminded of why I work so hard to champion women’s causes and women’s rights. And when 8th March rolls around, I celebrate all women and I celebrate one special young woman. If she is any example, our futures are safe in her hands.”
Annabel Wallis, marketing business partner, at Outsource UK also highlighted our next generation of females and explained, “International Women’s Day for me is an opportunity to raise our female voices – to drive awareness, to continue to highlight injustice, to speak up for those who can’t. As a mum, a marketing professional and a small business owner, I feel the tension between family and working life all the time, whether it’s to do with how I spend my time, my career progression or my remuneration. We all have an obligation to reach #eachforequal for my daughter and the next generation.”
Shazia Mustafa, cofounder of Third Door, a family-friendly coworking space with an onsite flexible Ofsted registered Nursery, told me, “I love IWD as I love celebrating and recognising all the amazing achievements women, past and present, have contributed towards, especially more so now where a lot of hidden stories are coming out via movies such as Hidden Figures. We can no longer believe that it is a man’s world, women make up half the world’s population and have contributed so much themselves and this should be a joyous day to celebrate every year.”
Claire Farrow, inclusive recruitment specialist at Outsource UK, also wants to champion a more inclusive workplace; one in which we all listen to our colleagues, friends and family and learn from one another. She said that, “micro-aggressions play out in society and in the workplace daily and to be truly equal we should feel it, as well as say it. If a woman feels her ideas are being taken less seriously in the boardroom, the intentions become irrelevant, and we must seek to understand why she feels that way and what everyone around her can do to change that.”
Montana Marshall, founder of The Dress Change, a womenswear exchange marketplace and told me that International Women’s Day to her, serves as a reminder of how hard women have had to fight for equality. She explained, “while we still have a way to go, we can look back and take inspiration and remind ourselves to fight, not only for ourselves, but for our future generations so that they can look back and look at how far we came.”
Ellie Ford also from Outsource UK said, “International Women’s Day for me is a reminder of the importance of positive behaviour towards each other in the working environment and in our personal lives too. I believe it’s important that women support, encourage and celebrate each other so that it sparks innovation, creativity and a positive environment for us all to work in.”
One thing that struck me about all the communications and lovely efforts that go into International Women’s Day every year (my blog included) is that we need to be really cautious that all these lovely words and thoughts, do in fact, initiate long term measurable change. Likewise, we have to be even more careful of companies jumping on the event as yet another branding exercise or tokenistic gesture, because this just makes a mockery of the whole thing unless they are putting these values into practice in the boardroom.
As Jane Johnson, founder of the Careering into Motherhood podcast sums up so eloquently, “all the female-dominated speaker events happening this week, canapés, hashtags and PowerPoint slides don’t change the fact that between 2012 and 2019 the gap between what the average full-time female employee earned compared with the average man closed by 0.6%. So, if change and equality are really what this is all about, then let’s see money put behind long-term, meaningful change initiatives in hiring, retaining and compensating women, rather than some nicely worded content and a week of corporate events.”
International Women’s Day is a lovely initiative, and I certainly value it as a celebration to shine a light on equality. However talking about these issues shouldn’t just be confined to one day, rather action is needed all year round, because Feminism is for life and not just for 8th March.