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International Women's Day

Date: 2 March 2021
Author: Cllr Liz Jaeger
Title: Deputy Leader and Vice-chair of Adult Social Services, Health and Housing Services Committee

Monday 8 March is International Women’s Day. 8 March also happens to be my wedding anniversary, 35 happy years. But for many women this year, 8 March will be ringed on their calendar to mark and celebrate not IWD, but that their kids are going back to school. Hooray!

Home-schooling, especially for parents of primary age schoolchildren, has been a huge undertaking. While there are undoubtedly many heroic dads out there, there’s no arguing that most of the work has fallen on the shoulders of mums. 

Women too have taken on the lion’s share of other unpaid work brought about by the changed circumstances of dealing with the pandemic. Not only that, but their paid work is more at risk than that of men’s, with female workers disproportionately represented in industries that have been hardest hit by COVID-19.

International Women’s Day (IWD) seeks to get us to gender equality sooner rather than later. A huge amount has been achieved since the first IWD back in 1911 - yes, 2021 is the 110th anniversary! Even so, there remained a long way to go even before the world went into lockdown. And, I’m sorry to tell you, but the UK is not leading the way. We don’t even make it into the top ten leading countries.

According to the World Economic Forum, and their global Gender Gap Report, it will be almost another 100 years before women catch up with men on a range of measures. Some now say that because of the pandemic the cause of women’s equality has gone backwards, and the equivalent of all the progress made this century lost.

I really hope not. There are some silver linings. One positive thing that the past year has shown us is just how many jobs can be done working remotely, or with far more flexible hours and routines. A big barrier for women applying for more senior roles has been the seeming inflexibility of top jobs. If job adverts can wherever possible emphasise the opportunities for flexible working, then a far wider pool of talent will come forward.

So, going forward the challenge is to build on the positives and for women to be able to play a full part in the recovery. We shall recover all the quicker if everyone’s talents are put to best use. If ever there was a time to embrace the message of International Women's Day - adopt progressive policies, be alert to bias, challenge gender stereotypes - 2021 must be it.

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Updated: 19 October 2021