Every year for the past 110 years, there has been a day dedicated to bringing awareness to the rights of women. It is only since 1975, though, that the United Nations recognised the day and adopted 8th March as International Women’s Day (IWD). Each year since, the UN has promoted a different theme for IWD and this year’s is #BalanceforBetter which is about creating a more gender balanced world in all aspects of life: education, health, work, pay, politics etc.
It all began in 1908 when a march was organised in New York which saw 15,000 women demand better rights. The following year, the Socialist Party of America established “Women’s Day” on 28th February, 1909, and on 19th March, 1911, it became known as International Women’s Day with the date later changing to 8th March in Germany in 1914. On that same day in 1914, there was a march in London in support of women’s suffrage, and in Petrograd, Russia, women textile workers went on strike, demonstrating in the streets. Thereafter, 8th March became associated with International Women’s Day (IWD).
Probably because of its socialist beginnings, prior to 1975 the day was mostly observed by communist countries and socialist communities but that all changed in 1975 when the UN took up the mantle due to it being International Women’s Year, and now there are many events held throughout the world celebrating the day.
Although women’s rights have come a long way in the last 100+ years, change has been slow and there is still a considerable way to go. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, it will take the original 106 countries (that have been included in the report since it began in 2006) 108 years to close the gender gap in all areas. The UK, however, has been steadily closing its gap. We are currently ranked 15 out of 149 countries and we have reached 77.4% gender parity (Iceland is ranked number one with 85.8% parity). If Britain were to close its gap entirely, $250 billion (£190 billion) could be added to our economy. That’s something for the government and business leaders to think about over their morning cornflakes. In the meantime, the political empowerment gap across the 149 countries will take 107 years to close whilst the economic opportunity gap will take 202 years; so, just another seven generations until women can enjoy pay equality throughout the world. Until then, we shall keep bringing awareness to the importance of gender equality, not just for women, but for the economic benefit of the country.