We’re celebrating women’s achievements in all their forms – from inspirational women at the pinnacle of their careers, to women that are a part of our daily lives. Our mums, our friends, our partners, our colleagues and bosses.
When it comes to International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March, it’s a little bit more than the simple celebration of women. This may be a day that shines the spotlight on women’s achievements, but it also raises the uncomfortable fact that there is still imbalance in the workplace and in society. This inequality is grounded in history – over the years women have tirelessly campaigned for the vote, for equal pay, and for the right to play an equal part in the world we live in, be it in society or the world of work.
Formally established in 1911, International Women’s Day was supported by over one million people across the USA and Europe in its founding year. Today it is celebrated by many times that number, in over 60 countries.
Better the balance, better the world
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is Balance for Better – to build a gender-balanced world and crucially, to note the imbalance that already exists. The aim is to encourage women to choose the career they want, rather than the one they feel they should. To take their place alongside men as scientists, sportswomen, businesswomen and leaders.
We’re showcasing three women who are doing just that. You might not have heard of them, or of their incredible achievements, but they’re challenging the view that women are limited to certain industries, and they’re smashing glass ceilings as they go.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon has a formidable track record in the world of technology. She passed A-level computing aged 11 (the youngest girl ever to have done) and was just 20 years old when she received her Master’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford.
She is also the co-founder and CEO of the STEMettes, an award-winning social initiative dedicated to inspiring and promoting the next generation of young women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) sectors. Since it was set up five years ago, it has worked with tens of thousands of girls across the UK and Europe, promoting the simple but strong message that girls can thrive in the STEM fields.
When I look back at the past century, I am proud of the things science and technology have achieved. I’m amazed at the progression in women’s rights, too. I’d love to be able to take it for granted that everyone, of whatever gender, will be able to engage with technology without trepidation
In July 1960, at the age of 26, Jane travelled from England to Tanzania to work with chimpanzees – a species that at the time, we knew little about. Today, she’s one of the world’s most famous conservationists and scientists.
Her work focuses on raising awareness for, and protecting, this endangered species. Her foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute, runs sustainable development and education programmes as well as conservation work. Thanks to over 60 years of ground-breaking work, Jane has helped to protect chimpanzees from extinction.
My mother always said, ‘If you really want something, you’re going to have to work hard, you’ll have to take advantage of every opportunity, but don’t give up.
She may not be a household name, but she is one of the biggest names in the sport of mountain biking. Her speciality is downhill mountain biking, and her achievements include six World Cup series titles and five downhill world titles, making her the most decorated champion in downhill mountain biking history.
In 2008, she became the first British woman to win the Elite UCI Downhill World Championship, and in 2016 she became the first woman to win 10 consecutive rounds of the World Cup, before winning every round in a World Cup Season.
All this, and she’s only 31 years old.
I still love racing. It’s what I live for. It’s what gets me up in the morning. There is no feeling like a race run – that full commitment.”
Great things, on a small scale
If you’re celebrating International Women’s Day, it doesn’t have to just be about women doing great things in the public sphere. It can also be about the women around you, who are doing amazing things on a more personal scale.
We spoke to three bloggers who write about and for self-sufficient women, and asked them what International Women’s Day meant to them:
Katy Stevens runs the money making and saving blog Katy Kicker, which looks at ways to help people make the most of the finances:
For me, International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women, past and present. I love to spend this day catching up with my female friends, who are strong, smart and independent. Financial freedom for women is something I am passionate about, because how else are you going to stop relying on someone else for your happiness?!
Kate Davis-Holmes is the woman behind the award-winning blog Kate on Thin Ice, and a self-proclaimed lifestyle blogger and feminist:
International Women’s Day matters to me as a focal point once a year to celebrate womanhood and the contribution of women to society as parents and home-makers, workers, volunteers, charity campaigners and politicians. It acknowledges those who have fought important battles for women’s rights and sheds a light on the battles we still need to fight. Financial freedom for women is vital to enhance their life chances and to help them use their skills, qualities and voices for the greater good.
Jenni Hill from the financial blog Can’t Swing a Cat is a huge fan of International Women’s Day:
I love seeing women come together to acknowledge our achievements and celebrate how far we’ve come in terms of gender equality. Of course, there’s still so much more that needs to be done in order to achieve true equality, particularly when we take race, sexual orientation, disabilities and social class into account.
I’m particularly interested in helping women of all backgrounds to become more financially independent. The importance that money plays in our lives is often overlooked, particularly when it comes to dating and relationships. But having financial independence gives you freedom, power, and choices. Strong finances might not make you happy, as such, but they can give you the flexibility to improve your wellbeing.
How will you celebrate International Women’s Day?
However you choose to mark the 8th March this year, remember that it’s a celebration, as well as calling for a more gender-balanced world. And whilst equality is within grasping distance, we’ve still got a long way to go.
In the words of Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist:
The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.