It’s no secret that women have often lived in the shadow of men. And even in this day and age, gender inequality is all around. The places we work, the sports we watch, the adverts that sell to us and even the governments who run our countries.
In the office, the figures speak for themselves. A recent survey found that in 300 companies across the US, Europe and Asia, only 11% of the executive positions were held by women1.
This might be because of society’s views towards ‘female roles’ (think secretaries, nurses and receptionists) and it might be because starting a family generally has a different effect on the working lives of men and women (no prizes for guessing whether Mum or Dad is more likely to put their career on hold). But, menstruation could also be a factor.
When surveyed for the BBC, more than half of the women asked said that they had experienced period pain which affected their ability to work, often needing to take time off2. The BBC also reported cases where women have given up work altogether because the pain was so bad2. However, this is just one contributing factor. To fight the workplace gender bias, we need to raise awareness of all of these issues that contribute to inequality.
Thankfully, the situation is slowly improving. Social movements to increase the awareness of the problem and force a change are gaining more and more momentum. One example is International Women’s Day, whose story began over 100 years ago.
Picture the scene. New York, 1908. Women are subject to oppression, unequal pay, poor factory working conditions and they aren’t allowed to vote. They have had enough. 15,000 women took to the streets in protest. This kick started a chain of events that led to the recognition of the first International Women’s Day on 19ᵗʰ March 1911. The date was then moved to 8ᵗʰ March, and has been celebrated annually ever since. International Women’s Day is now a major global event. According to their website, the day celebrates “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women”. We might need more than 24 hours to get through all that.
International Women’s Day celebrates what can happen when women come together for a cause they believe in. A wonderful example of this was in Iceland on 24ᵗʰ October 1975. Every woman in Iceland went on strike for the day. On strike from work, on strike from housework, even on strike from childcare. The aim was to “demonstrate the indispensable work of women for Iceland’s economy and society”. Without the female workforce, the country simply couldn’t function and was effectively shut down for the day. You go girls. The following year, the Icelandic government passed a law “guaranteeing equal rights for women and men”. The protest also set the stage for the election of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir in 1980, the first female president of any country in the world3.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is asking us to #BeBoldForChange. Take inspiration from the women of New York in 1908 and start a movement. Or be bold like the women of Iceland were in 1975 and demonstrate your worth, to your employer, friends, partner, politicians. Join with women all over the world who are being bold every single day fighting for gender equality. We are being bold offering information about how to space your periods, so women can have a better quality of life. There are many ways you can join in and support International Women’s Day. How will you #BeBoldForChange?