International Women’s Day is just the start… Devinder bains

Updated: May 17, 2018

If you missed that it was International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 then you must have completely lost all access to your phone, telly, computer, radio, not looked at a newspaper or magazine, stayed indoors all week avoiding contact with all other humans and indeed animals (there was more than one person on my Facebook timeline that promoted gender parity by posting a picture of their female rabbit, one of them even added the #MeToo hashtag – I’m not sure she totally understands the hashtag or she really does and her sense of humour is somewhere between very dark and utter genius).

As a staunch supporter of gender equality (who isn’t? Well, that’s the thing, lots of people aren’t, or we wouldn’t still be having this conversation…right?), I loved seeing so many people give the movement a voice, be it through brand campaigns, charitable actions or through social media. And this year, more than ever before (IWD has been running since 1911) the voice seemed louder and somewhat clearer.

Social media was stacked with empowering comments. Hilary Clinton posted a series of tweets about the women who are pushing boundaries when it comes to equality, from the USA Women’s Hockey team, who threatened to boycott the national finals unless fairer wages and support was provided, to Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo campaign. Another poignant tweet came from Piers Morgan (there’s a first time for everything) who celebrated women by pointing out that ‘In Britain women rule’ by holding down some of the most senior positions, including the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Scottish First Minister as well as the heads of the London Fire Service and the Met Police.

But it was a series of Instagram stories by Rihanna that most resonated with me. In one story after another she proclaimed that every day is IWD. And she’s right.

It’s great to have one day when everyone champions the female species, be it IWD partner McDonald’s, who turned the golden arches upside down to form a ‘W’ across its digital platforms, or Barbie producing dolls inspired by real women (Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart and fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad) – but the point is we need to make changes by taking action and raising awareness every single day.

The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report found that gender parity is over 200 years away, which means not one woman on this earth right now, or even her children, will know what it’s like to live in a world where we are, without question, given equal rights, wages, support and the same opportunities as men. We need to get there much quicker and to do that we can’t rely on one day a year. We need to move things forward by highlighting equal pay every day (not just on Equal Pay day, which is April 10, FYI). We need to challenge those who don’t recognise that abuse of any sort is unacceptable; World Health Organization estimates indicate that about 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced either physical or sexual violence.

We need to support women in an everyday capacity. If work opportunities arise, suggest a woman who you know will do a great job; choose women for roles as speakers at events or leaders in projects. Question any lack of inclusivity – why aren’t more women involved in a campaign? Encourage women: Tell those who have achieved something great how inspired you are, offer to be a mentor to women who are seeking advice from a role model.

Talk about the fact that gender parity is an issue; use the opportunities you have to give the subject a voice. Which is why I’ve chosen this more serious topic for my column this month. Which is why a week after IWD, I’m still banging on about it. If we all group together and #PressforProgress every day we CAN and WILL make a difference.

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