My nephews’ 4 year-old daughter, whilst playing princess dress up with her friends last week, turned to her mum and said, “when I grow up I want to be a mummy and an astronaut.” And the same gorgeous, wise, inquisitive young girl could well be. Yesterday for Book Day she dressed as The Highway Rat (a lovely book, by the very talented Julia Donaldson).
This day celebrates the social, economic, and political achievements of women across the world. But what does International Women's Day mean to you? To me, it represents the right for everyone’s dreams and desires to have an equal opportunity. I have worked in PR and Events for 25 years, supported and mentored by a large number of talented men and women. Two years ago I merged my company, Downey Birch, with marketing agency Fourteen Forty and the business growth is again, thanks to the great team effort, from our combined knowledge and viewpoints. We are equals in our contribution. We are not all the same, but we respect each-others talents and viewpoints. Here at Fourteen Forty we are passionate about celebrating everyone’s achievements within the workplace. Equality or equity?
International Women's Day is important because it creates a space in time to reflect specifically on the incredible women who influenced us and blazed a trail for continuous betterment. Now there's no shortage of stories doing the rounds today about high achieving women, who of course act as role models and ceiling breakers, and are deserving of the profile. But on this day, I like to think of the 'everyday woman' (in the absence of a better term). The woman who's sitting next to you on the bus or in the car on the commute home, the woman who pays her staff at the end of the month, the woman caring for elderly parents whilst juggling the management of her home and full-time job – any of the women reading this right now. You. Me. It's not just about the big names.
Sadly, the European Commission confirmed today, “Progress is slow on Europe's endeavour to achieve gender equality.” The First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said, “We are in 2019 and progress in the area of gender equality is still at a snail’s pace. In some countries, the situation is even regressing. All we ask for is equality for all. It’s time women and men push for equality together." The gender pay gap across the EU as a whole has stayed "practically unchanged". Women on average earned 16% less than their male counterparts in 2017, which was just a 0.6% improvement on statistics from three years earlier.
Along with the pay gap, whether we like it or not, there is still a stereotype that follows us everywhere we go. The idea that women should be "girly", do yoga but not boxing, dress more feminine less practical.
So today I think of my mum, my sisters and friends and my first boss, a bi-lingual strong female in an engineering company. They blazed a trail for me. I think of the nieces and the young girls coming after me and hope that my generation is continuing to make a difference for my nephews daughter. The book reading, dressing up, astronaut, highway rat. May she experience a more level playing field in the years to come.
By Joan Grenville, Fourteen Forty