Originally Posted: March 9, 2020
By: Bianca Miller Cole
There seems to be lot of days in the calendar for various things these days. We have ‘wear your pants to work’ day, cake day, Christmas jumper day and so many more weird and wonderful holidays. But March 8th stands out from the rest and with good reason – it is International women’s day! Let us explore why International Women’s Day is such an important date in the calendar.
Beginning in the late 19th century, women had to fight just to win the right to vote to have their voice heard and recognised in society. Although there have been significant improvements in the rights of women since then, women often still feel that they are trying to have their voice and achievements in society heard and recognised.
International women’s day gives us the opportunity to motivate each other as women, look back on all of our accomplishments and gives us time to think of what we want to achieve as women in the future. We can connect with each other to celebrate women and all of the amazing women of the past.
International women’s day is also a day to politically promote the social, economic, cultural and political equality of women and to call to action the need of further improvement of the equality of women.
And why do we want that? Because we as women are strong, resilient and fantastic and we want our abilities and accolades to reflect our opportunities rather than our gender.
According to analysis by the TUC, women in education work for free for two months a year as a result of the gender pay gap despite the fact that teaching is a female dominated industry with two thirds of teachers being women. This statistic is shocking and is part of the reason why women are calling for better equality.
We need to find ways to support women and reduce the gap in gender equality.
Man or woman, here are five simple ways of supporting and empowering women
1) Educate – Don’t be afraid to educate those around you when they make sexist or inappropriate comments in conversation. Educate them about what the right thing to say is or what the consequences may be for their actions. Don’t be afraid and speak up! Sometimes people may not even realise how their behavior may affect women and it is up to us to inform them, to encourage them to make better choices.
2) Be a leader – If you are a woman (or male ally) in a high position why not mentor or guide other females who are also looking to be in your position in the future. Mentor them to give them the insight and tools to be the best they can be. This will see more women in higher positions within the workplace and help to bridge that gap.
3) Charity donations – There are a number of charities around the world that support women whether it is supporting female survivors of war or helping support a women’s refuge for those escaping domestic violence, there are various ways you can support women via charity. Seek out a charity that suits and see how you can contribute with your time, expertise or money. Without your support these charities aren’t able to reach as many women as they do today and our continued working together can help those who are in a position where they need our support.
4) Support female owned business – 1 in 3 entrepreneurs in the UK are female run and yet females are least likely to be able to attract financial help (loans, investment etc). This is a larger number than previously announced so more women are seeking out entrepreneurship to change their opportunities and secure their futures. It is vital that we support female owned businesses to ensure that this number increases and that they are able to be financially independent. Women will see other women doing well and this will give many the confidence to own their own business. This is also why mentoring and being a customer is important to ensure we do our bit to encourage those with ambition.
5) Support working mums – balancing work with parenting duties can often be a struggle and research highlights that 88% of women face difficulties when returning to work. There are a number of ways you can support working mums especially if you are an employer. Perhaps you can offer work from home days, flexible working patterns to suit childcare or even simple things like ensuring there are rooms available for breast pumping breaks. One in five women leave employment altogether so you can retain your staff by making these changes to accommodate the changing work life balance of a working mum. Lets avoid mum shaming and let mums do what is best for them to commit to their career, life and family. This isn’t one size fits all.
6) Support women’s fertility choices – not every woman wants to have a child, it is important that we are thinking about this narrative and how the assumptions about a woman’s role in the world can cause discomfort or upset. There is also the reality for women who are struggling with fertility and some of the less than helpful comments that are sometimes said to women. I spoke with Hortense Thorpe, Fertility Ambassador at my client Centrica, we talked about her fertility experience. And the need for people to avoid gender biased assumptions on what working mums, women undergoing IVF, women without children will expect or want at work. Ask them how they would be best supported. As an additional note, according to Hortense, “loyalty of employees increases 10 fold when employers fund IVF treatments’ – food for thought for the businesses out there that can afford to offer this level of support.
So, let us all encourage and uplift each other this International Women’s Day. With this years theme ‘Each for Equal’ It is vital that we bring awareness and promote equality amongst men and women by helping each other and showcasing our many talents past and present. International Women’s Day is so significant as it is a yearly reminder that we must continue to promote and actively encourage the growth of equality and empowerment of women. Happy International Women’s Day to all of our inspiring females (mums, aunts, sisters, friends, mentors, entrepreneurs, managers, colleagues, role models, history makers, influencers, inventors etc) both past and present!