Today is International Women’s Day – a day to ‘accelerate gender parity’. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange, and in 50 countries around the world, women are taking part in the first ever International Women’s Strike. Effectively, a day ‘without women’, ladies around the world are encouraged not to get involved in ‘paid or unpaid labour’, to eschew housework (if possible), and to only spend money in non male-owned businesses. Supporters in this country are also advised to wear red, in solidarity with those unable to strike. Inspired in part by the Icelandic women of 1975 – 90 percent of which refused to work, do housework or partake in childcare one day in October to illustrate the ‘indispensible’ work of women – the International Women’s Strike, on International Women’s Day, aims to draw attention the feminist movement; the on-going struggle for women to achieve the same rights as men around the world.
In many ways, this is a distant goal. But it is not an unachievable one. Women have made phenomenal social, economic, cultural and political gains in recent years, and this will only accelerate with time. So whilst today is a day for action, it is also a day for celebration – a day to recognise and commend what women have done so far, and what they continue to do. Indeed, just looking at the last year alone should give us reason enough to celebrate…
In politics, well, us Brits finally have another female Prime Minister, Theresa May, who stepped through the door of Number 10 last July. Our Home Secretary is now also a woman, Amber Rudd, and as of last month, so too is our Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick. Indeed, our Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, also has something remarkable to celebrate this year – her Sapphire Jubilee.
Across the pond in 2016, the winner of the popular vote in the US Presidential Elections, with 48.2 percent to Donald Trump’s 46.1 percent, was (as we all know) the female Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Also in the US last year, Kamala Harris became the first Indian-American to become a senator (for California), and Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latin American to take up the role of senator too (for Nevada). Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American woman legislator in the country, now acting as the Minnesota House Representative for District 60.
Elsewhere in the world, Tsai Ing-wen was elected the first female president of Taiwan, and Kersti Kaljulaid was elected the first female president of Estonia.
As Fortune reported yesterday, last year set records for women in the political sphere. ‘Worldwide, the average share of women in parliament rose from 22.6 percent at the end of 2015 to 23.3 percent at the end of last year – 6.5 points higher than the global average a decade ago’.
In short, we’re moving in the right direction. And that’s just in politics...
In business, Dame Helen Alexander (chairman of UBM) and Sir Philip Hampton (chairman of GlaxoSmithKline), who co-chaired the Women on Boards review last year, set a goal for FTSE 100 companies to make one-third of their ‘all-important leadership roles’ women by 2020.
In the arts, Maria Balshaw was made director of the Tate, the first women to hold the position in the museums’ 120-year history. In fashion, Christian Dior hired their first ever female creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. In literature, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was the UK’s number one best-selling book of 2016 (1,430,574 copies sold), followed by Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, which sold 1,372,402 copies.
In music, Adele’s album 25 was the best selling album in the UK for the second year in a row, ahead of Coldplay’s Head Full of Dreams (also up top for the second year). Beyoncé’s second visual album Lemonade sold so well in its first week, it became her sixth consecutive number one album in the US.
In sports, Serena Williams aced it again by winning Wimbledon for the seventh time last year, thus equalling Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slams in the Open Era. Later that same day, she partnered with her sister, Venus, and together they won the Women’s Doubles – their sixth Wimbledon doubles title as partners. AS YOU DO…
I’m aware I’m barely scratching the surface of all the incredible things women have achieved over the past year. But it’s safe to say, women have achieved a lot…
Indeed, if you need any further indication as to the POWER of women at the moment, just look at the top five most followed people on Instagram... ALL women. Selena Gomez heads the list with 112 million followers, Ariana Grande is number two (99m), followed swiftly (sorry) by Taylor Swift (98.6m), then Beyoncé (96.5m) and Kim Kardashian (94.4m).
There’s plenty still to do, but there’s also plenty to celebrate.
Here’s to women!
Happy International Women’s Day