This Sunday, 8 March, is International Women’s Day. We asked leading female business figures from a variety of industries why the occasion matters to them. Read more in part two, tomorrow.
Joanne Allday, strategic business development manager, Port of Cromarty Firth
When I think of International Women’s Day, I think of women like NASA mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson, who passed away last month aged 101. She began working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1953 as a sub-professional. Katherine then went on to develop mathematical equations that ultimately helped astronauts get into orbit and later to the moon.
When she started, there was no one to celebrate women and diversity in the workplace. So that’s why it’s so important to do so today, as a recognition of those like her who strove to make the level of equality we currently enjoy possible. It reminds us we need to keep pushing to ensure full equality in every sense, be it colour, gender or religion.
Anna Knight, head of permanent and senior appointments at head resourcing, Standard Life Aberdeen
Since its inception in 1909, IWD has become a key platform for women to campaign for equality and women’s rights. To me, this has no geographical or religious borders. The day itself and its associated events, rallies and publicity serve to educate and raise awareness of the various continued struggles of women and girls around the world.
For some, it is a reason to celebrate women, but for me it’s an important opportunity to drive positive change and support those who are still having to forge paths. These are the women and girls who are brave, fearless and who continue to question and to challenge the status quo. Currently I am supporting an increased awareness of how employers can support menopause in the workplace, both from a mental and physical perspective.
Melinda Matthews-Clarkson, CEO, CodeClan
For International Women’s Day, I would like to restress that women need to help women. I recently saw an article which suggested women in the upper ranks of business were not engaging and mentoring the younger women in their organisations.
We have to learn from each other and from our own mistakes. We need to share but also to care. At CodeClan, I started the Digital Women’s Group with that intention (women helping women) but we got some negative comments because it wasn’t inclusive of all genders. Now that it is open to all, the topics have changed to be more about inclusivity and mental health (increasingly important) than how to grow as a female in a business environment.
I would like to have both, caring for the community and helping women find their confidence to be themselves in the workplace.”
Elaine Maddison, Brightsolid CEO
I have mixed emotions around International Women’s Day. On the one hand, it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness about the need for gender equality and the unconscious biases many of us have when it comes to gender. As a female CEO I recognise the need for women – especially those just entering the workforce – to have female role models and see that leadership roles are obtainable.
However, I still get frustrated that we have to have a named day to do this. I wish society wasn’t still in a position where we celebrate the achievements of women as such, rather than simply as achievements worthy of note. We should be recognising people on the basis of their talent and personality, regardless of gender. Until that day comes, however, International Women’s Day serves as a great opportunity for us all to advocate for gender equality.