The theme of this year’s IWD is #BalanceForBetter, an opportunity to really push towards gender equality and fairness across the board.
But how many steps have been taken in achieving these goals since we last got to together to celebrate the female of the species?
Kicked off by the #metoo and #timesup movements, there seems to have been a real effort to finally address things that matter to women, that affect women, and more importantly do something about them.
From tackling period poverty to switching the conversation around women in politics, there’s no better time to give props to the women wins we’ve witnessed since last International Women’s Day, and throw light on those that still need a bit of attention.
We’re tackling period poverty
Following on from the news that free sanitary protection will now be provided to all patients in NHS hospitals, the Government has pledged to end period poverty around the world by 2030.
The pledge will see millions go to projects providing sanitary protection and will work to take down the stigma that still persists surrounding menstruation.
Last IWD statistics were revealed suggesting one in 10 girls were unable to afford sanitary items here in the UK.
But this year has seen efforts made to address that, not only has Scotland offered free sanitary protection to women and girls living in period poverty, but there will soon be a new period emoji.
The blood droplet is the result of a campaign led by girls’ rights group Plan International UK, which hopes the new symbol will help tackle period stigma.
We witnessed the power of activism
Last year, was the year of activism with women marching, protesting and campaigning for change on everything from abortion, to MPs voting rights while they’re on maternity and paternity leave.
In May, we saw the real (girl) power of activism when the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the eighth amendment and legalise abortion after months of campaigning by feminist groups.
And earlier this year parliament agreed to change the law so that MPs on maternity and paternity leave will be allowed to vote by proxy. The call to action came following protests after Tulip Siddiq MP postponed a Caesarian section despite her doctor’s advice, in order to be able to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
“It was completely unacceptable that Tulip Siddiq MP was expected to choose between giving birth to her baby or voting in parliament,” Fawcett Chief Executive Sam Smethers said. “This new arrangement will give pregnant women in parliament and new mums and dads an entitlement that they can rely on.”
We ‘stepped up’ at the Grammys
Having been told to ‘step up’ at 2018’s event women absolutely owned the Grammy’s 2019!
Who could forget Academy president Neil Portnow telling women it was essentially their fault the Grammy’s were dominated by men in 2018.
“I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level, to step up,” Portnow said.
This year the female of the species responded in force, sweeping the gongs and outnumbering the men two to one among the night’s performers.
And Dua Lipa couldn’t resist throwing some subtle shade at Portnow as she collected her award for Best New Artist.
“I want to begin by saying how honoured I am to be nominated among so many incredible female artists,” she said. “Because I guess this year, we’ve really stepped up.” Go girls!
We opened up about mental health
Also at the female dominated Grammys, Lady Gaga used her acceptance speech for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance to make an important statement about mental health.
“I’m so proud to be a part of a movie that addresses mental health issues,” she said. “They’re so important. And a lot of artists deal with that, and we’ve got to take care of each other. So if you see somebody that’s hurting, don’t look away. And if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.”
We proved women can make a come-back
Serena Williams made a dramatic mum-back to tennis after giving birth to her daughter in September 2017. Remember that killer all-black catsuit?
But though she won the fashion critics, her Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ranking took a hit from her time-off.
Thankfully the tennis champ was able to throw some much-needed light to maternity leave policies in the sport, and how they can impact a players seeding on their return, so much so that the rules have now been revised.
Under the new rules the WTA will now guarantee that returning players won’t face seeded competitors in the early rounds but how they’re seeded in these tournaments remains at the discretion of officials.
We increased our presence in politics
2018 saw record numbers of women standing for election in countries around the world. Not only did Mexico elect an equal number of male and female MPs, but back in June the Spanish government became the first to have more women than men in the cabinet.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern flew the flag for working mothers in politics too, having given birth to her daughter in June, she became only the second woman leader to have a baby while in office, after Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1990.
We continued to spread the #MeToo message
The spread of the #MeToo movement took the world by storm in 2017 following allegations of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexually assaulting women. But that was just the beginning.
In 2018, the #MeToo movement continued to build with thousands more women stepping forward to share stories of sexual harassment and abuse.
The hashtag continues to serve as a beacon of hope and solidarity for victims of sexual assault.
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But… there’s still more to be done
Taken individually these wins may seem small, but together, they remind us that the time between last IWD and this IWD has actually been an important one for women and will hopefully pave the way for yet more improvements.
And we do still need more advancements, particularly when it comes to our careers. According to recent figures the UK gender pay gap means there’s still a 17.9% difference in earnings between women and men and there are now just 30 women in full-time executive roles at FTSE 250 firms, down from 38 last year, and amounting to 6.4% of the total.
Plus men in the UK are still 40% more likely to be promoted, and we still lose 54,000 working women from employment every year after they become mothers.
What’s more rape convictions were down 12% last year, making it the lowest year of rape convictions in 10 and according to a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum, it could still take another 100 years before the global equality gap between men and women disappears entirely.
So this International Women’s Day though it is undoubtedly better to be a woman than last, thanks in part to the power of female resistance to make a change, we still need more change to make IWD 2020 better still.
Let’s do this.