IWD 2016 – Valuable or Void?

Posted on March 4th 2016 by Stef Clifton-Sprigg

For those of us who even vaguely follow women-in-leadership/Emma Watson/D&I news, the build up to International Women’s Day 2016 (8th March) has well and truly begun.

As Account Manager at MIX Diversity Developers, I’m busy keeping tabs on all of the keynotes that our various speakers are delivering – from tiny events for a handful of promising 6th form girls through to huge corporates in the food & drink industry and security firms, it seems this year more than ever before, people are jumping aboard.

But as we all know, there’s a day for everything now. Some hold significant meaning, whereas others – Pig Day notwithstanding – may be slightly less worthy.

Is IWD just another token gesture, another excuse for producers of sanitary towels to make a feel-good advert? As one charming acquaintance put it – ‘we get it, girls can do stuff now’.


Would I have been an engineer if I had been encouraged into STEM subjects rather than the Arts? My grades were the same in both areas. Was it my gender, and the associated social norms & pressures that held me back? I’ll never know. Why do women still, still, earn significantly less than their male counterparts? Why are female politicians persistently remarked upon for their lack of make-up, abundance of make-up, shoe collections…? Why are boys and men still taught that it’s unacceptable for them to cry? And that’s just in my comfortable middle-class middle-England.

Will talking about FGM stop it from happening? No. But if we hadn’t talked about it, Parliament wouldn’t have legislated on it and authorities would be unable to stop the abuse of young girls. Will talking about gender equity on Boards make a difference? Maybe. The work of the 30% Club definitely suggests so. When we talk to one another, our words can be powerful.

So I’m challenging myself to shed my cynicism and to join in. To take up EY’s Pledge for Parity, to start that awkward conversation when someone is told to ‘man up’, to take time to stop and question my own unconscious biases before choosing the next freelancer to work on our website.

Happy International Women’s Day!