Tomorrow is the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day, and I’ve been really interested to note the extent to which it, as an event, has gained popularity and awareness over the last couple of years. One of the first projects I ever undertook when I started working in gender diversity around five years ago was a global survey in order to understand which countries celebrated (or even, were aware of ) IWD and I remember that the results made quite depressing reading. My colleagues (and these were people in senior diversity and HR roles) hadn’t even heard of IWD in countries such as the US, Canada and Australia; it’s commemorated on a different day altogether in South Africa (there it’s “National Women’s WEEK” each August, as I witnessed at events in Jo’burg and Cape Town in 2008) and in the UK it was celebrated but in a very low key way, with only a few corporates getting on board and doing something to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.
It was (and is) marked in a big way in countries like Russia and China, where it’s a public holiday, and quite a few western European countries also make it a social occasion, with activities tied into fund raising for women’s charities, but there was no sense at all of it being a global multi-media event.
Fast forward to this year, and I’ve seen references all over the press, even in the mass market tabloid papers – where it perhaps has most impact in terms of readership numbers. From the official IWD website, you can see that Reuters are on-board as a media partner and there are things happening all over the world, including in many of the countries where just a few short years ago IWD was a relative non-event. I’ve been invited to celebrations in London, New York and Bangalore; of course, I am actually going to the London one, which is being hosted by Plan and the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group at the House of Commons and is a lunch thing to “Celebrate the Potential of Young African Women.” Click here to read more about what Plan are doing to help girls in Africa and elsewhere complete their education.
I’m then legging it across town to join in the Fawcett Society’s photo shoot, which they’re organising to support their new pre-Election campaign, “What About Women?”. We all have to wear our FS “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt, so I really hope the weather warms up a bit …
My favourite TV channel (it shows “Mad Men”!) is BBC4, who are truly brilliant at creating themed programming strands: a week of shows from the BBC archive on any one of a number of concepts; prog rock, India, advertising, blues music and Islam, to name but a few recent memorable groupings.
Starting tomorrow, and this surely has to be to commemorate IWD, even though they’re not explicitly saying so, is a week of programmes about women and feminism – most of which will be repeated if you miss them tomorrow night and/or are also showing on BBC2. I’m setting Sky+ for the all-female audienced version of “Question Time” later in the week (still only ONE woman on the panel itself, though – why? Click here to suggest more female panellists) and for Vanessa Engle’s three part documentary series on the impact of feminism called, simply, “Women”.
Part one is set in the 70s and is about what were then known (usually disparagingly) as “women’s libbers”. Also from that era is Monday night’s repeat of a documentary on the 1976 Grunwick strike, now regarded as a key moment in union history and one at which female and Asian workers first tested and protested their employment rights.
Check out the BBC4 listings (or iPlayer) if you’re in the UK, there’s some great stuff in there from the amazing BBC archive.