Happy International Women’s Day!
It might be easy to imagine that the women who started marching for gender equality in the early 20th century wouldlook at us in 2021 and think their job had been done. The US has a female Vice-President, women make up more than athird of board members in the FTSE350, and it’s been noted that female national leaders seem to have tackled coronavirus better than some of their male counterparts. All of these things, however, have only happened in the last 12 months, and mainly in more economically developed countries. While we still have lots to do – including on equal pay – on International Women’s Day it’s important to acknowledge the people who helped us get this far.
The history of International Women’s Day is a collaborative and truly international story. In 1908, 15,000 people took to the streets of New York City to demand shorter hours, better pay and voting rights for women. The following year, the first “National Women’s Day” was celebrated in the US.
Then in 1911, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated on 19th March in Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and Germany, following a motion passed at the International Conference of Working Women the previous year. When women in Russia observed their first International Women’s Day on 23rd February just before the First World War, further discussions were had to decide on a fixed date. The 8th March was agreed upon and has been marked ever since.
What would the women marching 100 years ago make of our progress so far? The fight for women’s suffrage seems to have been won, with the majority of countries allowing women the right to vote (with the exception of Vatican City); however social and cultural barriers still prevent women in many countries exercising their democratic rights. In the last 12 months, there have been many reports of how the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected women, who are more likely to have lost their jobs while also doing the majority of home-schooling, family care and domestic work; and there is still much work to do on achieving equal pay.
But we should take a moment each International Women’s Day to celebrate the progress we have made, and recognise that we are standing on the shoulders of the giants that have gone before us – those women who took risks and spoke out to enable a better world for all of us. They inspire us to #choosetochallenge, something we will continue to do here at WIBAP for the betterment of everyone, not just our members, but also our friends, colleagues and family members. With each generation, International Women’s Day evolves to meet the needs of its time, but the message will continue to be the same – the world is a better place when women are treatedfairly, equally and feel safe. We rise together.
Did you know?
IWD is an official holiday in many countries, including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.