This International Women’s Day, let's reflect before we celebrate.
International Women's Day has always been something to celebrate, highlighting the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and applauding all that has been accomplished. At Fashionizer, it's always been an important point of reflection every year, where we consider the contributions of women the world over and celebrate them.
This year, however, our celebration will be muted. Over the past few months, we've witnessed significant obstructions for women's rights, such as the overturn of Roe vs Wade in 2022 and the impact of war and armed conflicts on women and girls. With such serious setbacks happening as well as progress, we think this year a more balanced approach to IWD is relevant.
Before we highlight the serious issues that need our attention, it's important that we do take a moment to pause, reflect and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women to date, because some great advancements have been made!
Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Suffragettes and other women's rights activists, women have achieved significant progress in many areas, including education, employment, and political representation. Compare women's rights to what they were 100, 50 or even just 10 years ago – we're making progress with equal pay, flexible working is on the rise and #MeToo has shone a much-needed light on institutionalised sexual harassment. The Suffragettes would be very pleased!
In business, women are making big strides. We've seen a sea change in boardrooms, the UK being second in international rankings for women representation on boards at top level, and 40% of FTSE 100 positions are now held by women, up from 12.5% only ten years ago.
The Fawcett Society, campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights, is concerned about the ability to increase the number of women in politics and government (currently at 34%). The main concern is about the barriers that affect MPs' decisions to stand for office in the first place and then to remain in parliament. This is due to the rise of gender-based violence towards female MPs, which includes misogynistic abuse, online harassment, stalking and threats to family members. Although these problems are not exclusive to women, female MPs may be more likely to receive gender-specific threats, the increase of which forms a strong barrier when younger women are deciding to volunteer for office and put their heads above the parapet.
It does feel disheartening when we look at recent events. They're not just a slowing down of progress, they're huge setbacks. Last year saw the overturn of Roe vs Wade, whereby women's right to abortion is no longer constitutionally protected in the USA. Restricted access to abortions will have far-reaching and worrying repercussions – researchers suggest that people will suffer financially, abortions will become more dangerous, and yet they will continue to happen.
We must also consider the disproportionate impact of war and armed conflicts on women and girls. In countries where war rages (such as Ukraine, Myanmar, Afghanistan, the Sahel, Yemen, Iran) the safety and human rights of women and girls are often ignored amid the conflict. With global conflict showing no signs on easing, it feels wrong to solely focus on achievements for women's rights, when so many women have no rights, no home, and no safety at all. It's obvious that we need to be proactive in furthering (and protecting) women's rights.
The Real Change
Here at Fashionizer, we've always been a majority female team and have always encouraged flexible working arrangements to help our team maintain that all-important work-life balance (something that's particularly useful for women with children). We also have a one-hour cap on journey time to the office to minimise arduous commutes and to promote our sustainability agenda when it comes to our transport policy. As a result, when the pandemic hit, we were at an advantage with many of our remote working processes already comfortably in place. Now that we can return to office work, we maintain flexible working to support our team.
Ultimately, IWD is something we celebrate each year – history shows us how far we've come, and it's important to remember that real change is possible. The thing is, we can't afford to passively reflect and not take action, especially when there are still huge battles to fight and serious issues that require us to continue dedicating time and energy to change on a large scale, and to adapt our goals in an ever-changing world.
This IWD, let's think about everything we can do, and everything we can work towards. Join us as we continue to prioritise women's rights in the workplace and far beyond, and let's celebrate this year's IWD while also using it to motivate us on our journey to change.