International Women’s Day

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you all that I am proud to call myself…

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you all that I am proud to call myself a feminist. I believe in equality between genders. I believe that men and women should have equal opportunities and the ability to do whatever they want with their lives. Being a feminist, for me, is about respecting women’s experiences, identities, knowledge and strengths, and empowering all women to realise their full rights.

That’s why I embrace International Women’s Day whole heartedly and why it needs to be celebrated in an all-girls environment. It’s a day for inspiration and change.  It is a day to choose to challenge.

It is an opportunity for us all, to recognise how far women have come as we together, men and women, aspire to gender equality and raise awareness of how far we still need to go.

It is important to celebrate the trailblazing women that have come before us, celebrate those driving change today and commit to opening up opportunities for those who will follow in making our world more equitable.

So why does this all matter? It matters because we are not there yet.

Yes, we have come a long way. However, we are also reminded of the inordinately long time it will take (most recently estimated by the World Economic Forum to be 257 years) before women achieve global gender pay parity.

Even in many of the world’s leading economies, women still struggle to comprise more than 20-30 per cent of positions in parliaments, corporations and boardrooms. What is positive though is that through the actions of strong, trailblazing, influential and brave women, we are slowly breaking through the glass ceiling and changing societal thinking by challenging thinking.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.

Over the last 18 months we have seen women at the front lines of the COVID crisis, as healthcare workers, caregivers, innovators, community organisers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic.

Female leaders and women’s organisations have demonstrated their skills, knowledge and networks to effectively lead COVID responses and recovery efforts. Women led through the pandemic bringing different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table, and making irreplaceable contributions to decisions, policies and laws that work better for all.

Many countries that have been highly successful in navigating the COVID pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, are led by women. Counties include Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand and Slovakia. These leaders have been widely recognised for their decisiveness and effectiveness of their leadership as well as their compassionate communication.

A recent report titled ‘The Female Futures’ researched by the London-based Future Laboratory highlighted future trends that can bring about a more optimistic future for women:

Transform Female Education – Innovation, investment and entrepreneurialism skills need to be part of girls’ education. Business skills will be essential in a more freelance future reality faced by the next generation.

Invest in Female Talent – Investing in women-owned and women-run businesses is key. Support and networking for women will become increasingly important.

Open the Echo Chamber – Women connecting, mentoring and sharing their experiences will remain important, however men must become a part of the conversation, working with and supporting women.

Go Gender-Neutral – Generation Z values both sexes for the qualities they bring to the workforce. Conversations are slowly changing to support a gender-neutral way of thought.

Adopt a New Growth Agenda – To attract talented female entrepreneurs, organisations must adopt broad measures of success. Values related to family support, work-life balance, and environmental responsibility are increasingly important.

We all play a part in closing the gender and opportunity gap.

We welcomed back to St Hilda’s last Friday Diana Warnock to address the Senior School at our International Day Women’s Assembly and heard from Kirsty Packer speak this morning at our Year 10 International Women Day’s breakfast. To find out more about these incredible women, please click here.

I encourage you all to take time this week to thank the amazing women and men in your lives who have encouraged, inspired and motivated you to be the strong, confident and intelligent woman you are today.

What will the next generation say about our generation’s contribution to gender equality? Will our generation have maintained momentum, or escalated it?

I know which one I would like to be remembered for.

Fiona Johnston