International Women’s Day – What’s the hype? Our Director Libby Barnes reflects on what International Women’s Day means to her…

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been on my radar for a few years now, but this year it felt like it was everywhere! My social media channels were flooded with the 2019 #BalanceforBetter message of solidarity, celebration and support for women the world over. Walking down the high street, shops had IWD focused displays, organisations were running IWD focused activities. It’s clear that IWD has arrived for 2019.

Image courtesy of International Women’s Day

IWD actually started back in the early 1900’s, and the international connection that IWD forms between women is fantastic. Whether those women are successful business women carving out their corporate career, working in the home to raise our next generations, or turning their passion into their own flexible business; IWD connects women across the globe, and across socio-economic barriers. It’s great to see weight being thrown behind IWD and the principles it stands for by organisations and individuals across the world.

However, a quick search of any of the IWD hashtags on social media elicits a mixed response. There are a huge number of very valid posts which make a positive contribution to the IWD movement.  There are also a large number of advertising style posts utilising the hashtag to gain an audience which is frustrating when there are still so many barriers to overcome to achieve IWD’s 2019 focus of #BalanceforBetter.

We still have a pay gap of 11.4% in the UK (Financial Times), and that data is limited, a more accurate picture is a far greater percentage than that. We still have a patriarchal view of birth, something that is an innately female topic, yet somehow, we have moved into a world where women are instructed on how they will be ‘allowed’ to birth. We still have a dominance of men in the most senior roles, with only 6.4% of women holding the top jobs within the FTSE 250 in 2018 (The Guardian). We still have more and more stories pouring out of Hollywood around actresses being sexually harassed in exchange for the promise of jobs. This is just a very small collection of the issues facing today’s generation of women, and is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

So, what’s the relevance for us as a business? EMA Events are a female-founded, female-led business. The majority of our team is female, and jointly we have over 30 years’ worth of experience in the industry. The events industry is perhaps unique in its domination by women, but we still see a prevalence of men in the top jobs. I’ve regularly sat in cross-functional senior management meetings as the only female, and seen male colleagues patronise talented female managers. I’ve been asked to “send one of your pretty girls” by more than one client. Yes, things have shifted hugely in my lifetime, but we still have barriers we need to remove for the benefit of our daughters, granddaughters and beyond.

I hope that IWD’s focus of creating a balanced gender world will be heard throughout 2019. IWD is not just a day, it’s a commitment to progression throughout the rest of the year and beyond on all of these issues. IWD is about collaboration, changing perceptions and unconscious bias, and moving toward gender parity.

If you’d like to work on unconscious bias in your organisation, then we do offer facilitated team builds to tackle a portfolio of key obstacles facing businesses today. Our facilitated team builds are designed around your business and your specific agenda, and can be tailored to suit varying audiences.  Do get in touch with one of the team to discuss further.