So what is the impact of International Women’s Day?

Our Business Support Officer, Vicki Scholfield, shares her personal take on career change, empowerment and celebrating IWD in a new town.

Every recent adulting year up to now, I’ve created a social media post about International Women’s Day and giving a low-key shout out to the ‘amazing women I know’. Pretty standard, if I’m honest, and yawningly very predictable.

However, this year was a little different. I recently left my career as a teacher, after eighteen years, and moved to Brighton from Burnley.Two BIG changes.

In my new role at always possible, I was given the opportunity to attend Herstory II at the Ironworks in Brighton. For the first time, I actually attended an event to mark IWD.

Well, the event did indeed challenge my comfort zone and my perceptions. I was so glad that my colleague Molly Boyer was there with me. Molly started at always possible around the same time that I did, and despite being twenty years younger, she has an ability to make me feel comfortable whilst I navigate my brave new world. I really admire how gutsy and confident she is in new situations – a perfect partner in crime!

A very interactive opening led by The Funny Girls had us belly-laughing and then straight after into an activity which challenged identity perceptions and those very first impressions that we have of women taking on different roles. Was Hela really ‘Hela the Supernanny’? Or was she really ‘Hela the Funeral Director’? The truth is she could’ve been any of the personas from a wide-ranging list. Turns out Hela was actually ‘Hela the Connectress’.

Vicki and Molly sat at a table at the Herstory event at the Ironworks in Brighton

Vicki (right) and Molly (left)

That did really make me think of my own unconscious bias. But how do we move away from it? Is it just in awareness, education, empathy and accountability, or the need to question deeper? Or to accept that it exists but not be passive in challenging it? As I write this, I realise that I must challenge myself on it to develop my own awareness.

Then came the inspirational speeches from women leaders. In honesty, this was the type of content I’d been expecting from a day like this. How can women, not just leaders, empower each other? I thought about some of the things I heard; mentoring, advocacy, networking – and the takeaway that resonated with me most was recognition. I find that when I really feel I’ve achieved something and someone else recognises that; that’s when I feel empowered. I can do it. Maybe a little bit like the moment in the Wizard of Oz film where Glinda says, “You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it yourself.”

I am constantly inspired by the incredible women who are leading the way in all areas of life. From politics and business to science and the arts, women are making significant strides, breaking barriers, and achieving great things. They are leading the charge on issues like climate change and social justice, and they are using their platforms to advocate for those who have been marginalised and overlooked.

Women are not only making a difference in their own communities, but they are also setting an example for the next generation of female leaders. I’m also inspired by the women who are leading smaller changes, not the ‘chargers’ but the ones replacing the churned up ground so that it creates a smoother, passable way for the future.

And so… back to the opening paragraph and my new role at always possible. It feels like a very apt opportunity to reflect on the social impact of celebrating this important day. How should it be measured? As I looked around me, I saw the incredible achievements of women in all areas of life, from politics and business to art and culture. Before the actual event had even begun there was social impact taking place. The fact that International Women’s Day is even a date, the conversations that it awakens before the day, on the day and then after? An annual ‘bringing into the spotlight’ of age-old gender inequality and modern-day social injustice.

If I’ve left the event thinking about the challenges that women have overcome in the past, the challenges they are overcoming now and the bigger things that still need to be done – did every other attendee?

I’ve then taken those conversations into my home and discussed the issues with my own daughters. If they also begin to challenge and question the norm then this is HUGE social impact.

The day and events like Herstory provide a platform for women to share their experiences and celebrate their accomplishments. They help to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes and highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion. While progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to close the gender gap and create a more equitable world.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, it will take 135.6 years to close the gender pay gap worldwide. When I read this fact I was shocked. I mean, 137 years?! Surely there’s something wrong with the world there right? To the point of stop, I want to get off…

But I’m more determined than that. And I don’t think I’m alone?

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