International Women’s Day has grown into a holiday that’s celebrated throughout the world. At its heart, it’s a celebration of the obvious: the world is a better place when women and men are treated fairly and valued equally by society.
To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day theme #embraceequity, we asked Barbara, Philip and Linda to tell us exactly what the day means to them:
Barbara Coyle – Country Manager Ireland
For me, International Women’s Day is about celebrating and honouring the women who went before us and inspired us and those who continue to inspire us today! The women who have changed the world we live in and the women we look up to in our lives, the women who brought us into the world and the women who are our support networks.
International Woman’s Day planted the first seeds in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York demanding better jobs, better pay, working conditions and the right to vote. The change stemmed from them and their determination. 115 years later and society has evolved in so many ways, with still a lot of work to be done in many places.
I’m happy to be a mother of four kids who will be raised in a world where it’s more normal for everyone to be equal and a world that tries to be more inclusive. I admire the women who break barriers to show the younger generations what is achievable and there is nothing they can’t do. I have a long list of inspirational women such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kamala Harris, Mary Robinson, Katie Taylor and most importantly all the amazing women in my own life, daughters, mother, sisters, nieces, and Gal Friends.
Philip Lewis – Web Developer
On a wall in my flat, there is a photograph of Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney, holding a banner that simply reads: “Votes for Women”. The photo, taken circa 1908, has since become an iconic image of the Suffragette movement and what it achieved. It captures the humble determination of two women protesting against the political and media establishment of their time. I find their courage in the face of such a daunting task to be an inspiration; one that we should draw upon as we campaign against modern-day issues.
Since then, successive waves of feminism have ensured that, in the eyes of UK law, women today have equal standing with men. While that particular battle has been won, the war is far from over. Women still provide more unpaid care-work than men. The gender-pay gap still exists. Female representation among STEM-jobs, managerial positions, board-members, and MPs remains far below 50%. Medicine, academic research, car safety-tests, AI-algorithms, public-transport, taxation, and the 9-to-5 workweek all continue to discriminate against women in nuanced but verifiable ways. An investigation by UN Women UK found that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed.
Equity means recognising the obscured nature in which women remain disadvantaged, and providing specific, targeted solutions to address these problems. To me, International Women’s Day means increasing the awareness of these issues, and continuing the fight for women everywhere.
Linda Iuliano– UX UI Designer
International Women’s Day takes me back to my childhood, when I lived in Italy with my parents, and to the scent of the ‘mimosa’, a beautiful yellow flower that inebriated the whole house.
In Italy, on the 8th of March, women will receive twigs of mimosa flowers as a symbol of love and appreciation from the men in their lives. Also, women give mimosa flowers to their mothers, sisters and other women who are important to them, as a gesture of sisterhood.
The mimosa was introduced as a symbol of the 8th of March in 1946 by three Italian politicians, Rita Montagnana (1895-1979), Teresa Mattei (1921-2013) and Teresa Noce (1900-1980). It’s a flower that blooms between the end of February and the beginning of March. The flower also appeared to be the most suitable symbol because it was cheap (the mimosa tree is a widespread plant) and therefore accessible to all. Furthermore, the mimosa is made up of many small dots: a symbol of unity between people.
In 2012 I received the International Award ‘A Mimosa for the Environment’. The award was born in 1992 and is awarded every year on International Women’s Day. It was an extraordinary achievement that recognised my art direction of an exhibition for female artists that used recycled materials. I was awarded with a beautiful handmade golden mimosa brooch. This is my story and what International Women’s Day means to me.