Why I’m not a fan of International Womens Day

7 03 2011

This month, March 8th the be precise, marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. There are events all around the UK to mark the occasion.

I’m maybe going to risk the wrath of women’s groups everywhere but I’m not a fan.

It’s not that I don’t think that it isn’t important to recognise the value of women in our communities or to celebrate those great women in the past who, often at great personal cost, changed women’s situations for the better. I do.

Margaret Thatcher once famously said that if you want something said ask a man, if you want something done, ask a woman. This is probably the only statement of hers that I can agree with. She’s right. Women are often better at getting things done. The exception seems to be around International Women’s Day.

If you have read my editorials before, or my blog, you will know that I am a big advocate for doing not saying and for concerted action. I regularly exhort people to get involved, to volunteer with a charity rather than just writing a cheque for the fund-raising spectaculars and walking away until the next red nose day. I fear that International Women’s Day may be becoming one of those headline events – a way to make a token gesture and then forget about the issues until next year.

You know the kind of think I mean – glossy venue, parachute in the female equivalent to James Caan and Nelson Mandela, hosted by someone off the TV. The organisers get to feel good about themselves for organising a meeting, the speaker feels important and the audience goes away thinking it’s not too bad to be a woman after all!

A huge amount of time, effort and money is spent on organising one off events. Certainly important issues are raised, lives are celebrated and sometimes money is raised for good causes but I can’t help feeling, then what?

What needs to happen is a year long, life long commitment to improving the lives and circumstances of women.

This is why we set up the3rdi magazine in the first place. A day in day out commitment to raising the profile of women and the amazing businesses they run and the social enterprises they found. This is why, at the start of 2011, we turned the3rdi magazine into a member owned co-operative so that every woman could not only own the vision but could own this business and share in the profits and set the agenda.

So we are not hosting a day conference, or a cocktail party, or a networking lunch. What we are doing is supporting real, substantial projects that will improve the outcomes for women in business and women in our communities.

Inspiring Women Leaders is an audacious and unique year-long programme focused on taking action to achieve inspirational systemic change. The programme is borne out of, and builds on, the current national and international debate on women’s leadership; global dialogue exploring the changing nature of business; and research showing economic benefits of diversity in leadership. The programme begins on 15th June 2011 with an event which will bring together 150 senior women leaders into a day focused on innovative action, co-creation and collaboration. It is being run through Inspiring Leaders Foundation, a new social enterprise and all profit generated will be put back into the programme throughout the year and beyond.

Fair Comment is an innovative and cost-effective programme which generates dozens of ideas to ensure the future success of women and their businesses. A panel of experts, each of us giving our time freely, brainstorm ideas in order to address the issues brought to us. It is a little bit like Dragons Den meets Mastermind, with one big difference – the panel is always on the side of the presenter! The presenter, an representing themeselves, a business or a social enterprise, has an hour of the time and combined brainpower of the panel and leaves with lots of ideas to consider. In return the presenter makes a £100 donation to The Womens Fund.

This editorial is an unashamed call to arms. It is not good enough to turn up once a year for the big spectacular and think that you have done your bit. By all means have a great day on 8th, listen to and learn from some of the inspirational women that will be speaking at events across the UK but don’t let it all end at midnight.

Get involved and stay involved. There is a lot to celebrate, as the video shows, but still a lot to do to change attitudes and change lives – when I placed this video on the page the googleads served were to “find your beauty queen from Moldova!”

Joining the3rdi magazine limited co-operative would be a great place to start that journey!



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