This year's International Women's Day theme of 'Each for Equal' is an interesting choice, as much has been made in recent times of the substantial difference between 'equality' and 'equity'. Treating everyone equally doesn't take into account each person's different backgrounds and privileges, whereas treating everyone equitably does.
'In the world of finance, there is still a huge gender gap at the higher levels of management, as shown by gender pay gap reporting and ratios in boardrooms. As in nature, diversity gives an organisation strength and resilience, qualities which all businesses require for survival. A few years ago, I went to an event that was hoping to improve the gender pay gap across several industries, one of the topics was negotiating pay rises and going for promotions. Much was made of finding opportunities to talk to your boss, being aggressive and tactical, 'leaning in'. If an organisation requires you to seal promotions and equal pay deals in pub handshakes and at the expense of others, then the issue is likely not with you as an individual but with the organisation itself. Until finance fully embraces above statutory parental leave, flexible working for all, transparent pay structures, collaborative leadership and meaningful workplace wellbeing policies, it is likely that both women and men will continue to 'lean in' until they fall over. The shift to a sustainable financial system requires everything we've got, and without the significant input of women to shape a new model of equitable finance we're working with one arm tied behind our back.'
'Sir David Attenborough is a national treasure and is internationally respected for his work and contribution to the protection of the natural world. His involvement in broadcasting has made him a global figure; the world knows a lot about him. For International Women’s Day, I have selected a female figure that is lesser-known, but who has been at the forefront of ocean protection for decades: Dr Sylvia Earle. I first discovered Sylvia through the documentary Mission Blue, which gives a fascinating overview of her life’s work as an oceanographer, marine biologist and explorer. Sylvia first scuba dived in 1953 and has spent thousands of hours underwater since. She has been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence since 1998 and became the first female Chief Scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1990. She has held world records for dives, used and developed pioneering equipment, led expeditions, contributed new research and made important discoveries. Sylvia has also experienced and fought through decades of gender inequality and cultural bias, which she has spoken about extensively. Considering the theme #EachforEqual, I hope that in the future, careers are not so influenced and defined by gender.'
'I have selected a sportsperson as it is a clear area where women do not stand equally with men in terms of recognition (and, of course, financial reward). One way of putting this is when asked the 'easy question' of who was the first British winner of the Tour de France, the answer is Bradley Wiggins in 2012. Although it was actually Nicole Cooke in 2006. But she, of course, won the La Grande Boucle Féminine, which does not have the same status. Arguments on this aside, she is inspirational as she won pretty much everything there is to win in cycling - a non-comprehensive list: British Road race champion, Fleche Wallone, Amstel Gold, Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Olympic Road Race, World Championship Road Race. The first cyclist, male or female to win the Olympic games and world championship in the same year. Overcoming injury and succeeding without the support other (male) riders may have had, such as third in the commonwealth games road race, riding with no team.'
'History is littered with examples of inspirational women whose achievements were overlooked or undervalued, from Ada Lovelace to Rosalind Franklin and Jocelyn Bell-Burnell. While the untapped potential of the riches on offer in mathematics and science alone is truly embarrassing, highlighting historic examples might suggest that undervaluing the contribution women is a thing of the past. Likewise, to choose as an inspiration any of those mentioned above might imply that you need to publish the first computer algorithm, provide the key to understanding the structure of DNA, or discover pulsars to warrant admiration. So, as estimable as these examples are, I choose to express my admiration for someone close to me whose achievements may appear prosaic or unremarkable to a casual observer, but are actually monumental when you know what she is going through. The effort required, while suffering with severe depression, to get up every day and do the myriad things required to raise two children, knowing that you will have to do the same thing tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that... is mind-blowing to me, and a reminder that inspirational women are everywhere if we take the trouble to look.'
'#EachforEqual does more than promote gender equality. It should inspire us all to reflect on how we appreciate the value of others; how we share in each others successes; and how we pick up those that may be struggling or marginalised. It reminds us about what women, generation by generation, have had to wage to work towards parity in terms of respect, recognition and reward, that personal freedom and happiness should never be decided by gender or any other factor beyond our control, and that the challenge now is how we fight for each other's rights, regardless of background, in an age of delights and desperation. It shows how far the idea of shared, common rights has come. But all good ideas have to start somewhere, and on this year's International Women's Day, I'll reflect on the story of Minty. Born into slavery in the American south almost 200 years ago, Harriett Tubman (born Araminta Ross, and known as 'Minty') overcame racial and gender bias to save herself and escape to relative freedom, and then went back to save some more. Despite being born into poverty and servitude, Harriett recognised injustice and refused to let her own good fortune be to the detriment of others. A tireless campaigner, fighter, engineer of the 'underground railroad', Minty helped many others to escape slavery, was instrumental in the abolitionist movement and embodies the revolutionary we should all try to be.'
'In 2018, a 15-year-old school child from Stockholm was brought to the attention of millions: Greta Thunberg. She was dumbfounded by the dismal response to the climate crisis and, on her own, began striking in school hours outside the Swedish parliament. This small protest would start the biggest climate movement in history. Her activism encouraged millions of people from across the globe to stand up to their governments and demand a real, meaningful response to the greatest problem we face. Greta's sheer grit and tremendous bravery was the catalyst for a remarkably diverse youth-led movement to speak with a unified voice, and from Leah Namugerwa in Uganda to Xiye Bastida in Mexico, young women are taking centre stage. Building on the work of environmentalists and climate scientists, these young activists are making the fight more accessible and more relatable, therefore creating urgency in the mindset of the public. On this International Women's Day, I am reminded that no matter the source, without individual activism there would be no collective action. This great young woman has overcome sexism, ableism and tribalism to fight for this planet and Greta, like others in the movement, proves that equality and diversity is at the heart of the response to the climate crisis.'
'For this International Women's Day, I want to focus not on one single woman who has inspired me, but on many. I'd like to celebrate all the women who have fought and are fighting, and succeeding, against odds that would already be high for men, but are all the more so due to the way our societies are still skewed against women.
I am thinking of women in the judiciary like Marta Cantabria, the first woman to hold the office of President of the Constitutional Court of Italy; politicians like Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the first female president in Greece's history; or scientists like Claudia Balotta who, together with other colleagues (women and men, most of whom without even a permanent contract, in the best style of Italian research) have recently managed to isolate the Italian strand of the COVID-19 virus. As we know, these countries are not bastions of inclusivity, which makes these achievements all the more admirable.
One last thought goes to the mother of a friend who, while on maternity leave (already not a walk in the park) decided to "make the most" of the time she had and studied for the exam to access the Italian judiciary, widely recognised as the hardest exam a jurist in Italy can take. Needless to say, she passed it with flying colours. If this is not a source of inspiration, I don't know what could be.'
"I will show [you] what a woman can do.”
'If someone asked you to name a well-known Italian artist, you might automatically think of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci or perhaps Raphael. Very few female artists spring to mind as easily. In the seventeenth century, the opportunities for women to receive formal artistic training were extremely limited but one, Artemisia Gentileschi, defied the odds - with great success.
Painting in the style of Caravaggio and known for focusing on dramatic and sometimes brutal biblical scenes that had typically only been depicted by male artists, she was a highly accomplished artist. Amongst her extraordinary work, Gentileschi’s interpretation of Judith and Holofernes, which shows a woman taking vengeance against her enemy, is thought to be a reflection of the artist’s own desire to fight back against the personal injustice and oppression that she experienced during her life.
Gentileschi isn’t a household name yet but the first major UK exhibition about her life and work which opens at the National Gallery in April 2020 will offer much greater recognition and rightly so. Artemisia is a name that belongs on the list of Great Masters.'
'Here at Ethical Screening, we spend a lot of our days reading company Annual Reports and Sustainability Reports. We've noticed that there are a number of recurring images used in these documents to illustrate certain themes, for example, a pair of hands holding a growing plant or the Woman in a hardhat. That image is often used in industries that traditionally have a low representation of women, and we joke that she sometimes makes her way into several different sections of a company report. But I often find myself wondering, who is she, and how did she get there? What has she had to overcome in order to bust those stereotypes and end up working as an engineer, or a construction worker, or on a wind turbine? In the UK, only 15% of graduates of engineering and technology subjects were women in 2017/18. And when these are the disciplines at the vanguard of solving the world's problems, surely a diverse point of view is incredibly valuable. So, next time I see her, I'll no longer joke, I'll instead feel admiration for the Woman in a hardhat.'
"The only woman onboard"
'This International Women’s Day I want to spare a thought for women serving on corporate Boards. Companies and their Boards often seem impenetrable and hard to access, at least they often seem that way to women. It makes me think of the ships of the olden days and old sailor superstition where it was bad luck to simply have a woman onboard. And although women serving <i>on the Board</i> have not had to overcome the risk of being thrown into the sea to appease the sea gods, she must surely have braced her own storms to get to where she is. It might not have been superstition that stood in her way, but the truth is, women are incredibly underrepresented on most corporate Boards and with women contributing to the work force all over the world, every single day, they simply shouldn’t be.'