Should International Women's Day be celebrated?

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It’s International Women’s Day across the world and women will be celebrating each other and looking back on how far we’ve come. In the midst of all the celebrating, there are still many who wonder why we need to celebrate, let alone having an entire day to do so; bringing me to the point of truly asking whether we should?

One can say that if we take a look at history, it’s quite evident why a day like today is necessary — highlighting the reasons why in 1910 Clara Zetkin came up with the idea, and why it was later backed by former US president Barack Obama, who proclaimed that March should be known Women’s History Month.

I took the opportunity to speak with 16 amazing female entrepreneurs who are innovating and paving the way for future female innovators and asked, should we be celebrating International Women’s Day.

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Pia Varma, founder of Just a Splash

"In the same way that mothers,  fathers, and indeed men all have a special day of the year where we take a moment to celebrate our appreciation for them, then yes, we should also celebrate International Women's Day. But not in an overly feminist kind of way. 

It's true that women, especially working moms, have experienced massive societal progress over the past few decades and I'm incredibly grateful that I was born into a generation where I can run my business, raise my baby, keep the household going and still indulge in occasional me-time, without anyone raising an eyebrow. But the truth is that I have never really thought of myself as a woman entrepreneur. I'm

just a person who had an idea and wanted to see it materialise. I don't feel I deserve special recognition just because I happen to be female. If you're a human who's just trying to do something meaningful in the world, that's good enough for me. 

But I get the sentiment and so as long as we approach it like Valentine's Day, where you know you care for each other everyday but once a year it's exciting to come together around the world to express that love out loud, then I'm game."

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Sonia Pash, co-founder, Temza Design Plan and Build.

”Growing up in Russia, I have only good feelings about International Woman Day. In Russia it is a public holiday and celebrated by not only the woman but also by men to give gratitude to their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, wives, daughters and all female relatives, friends and colleagues. Every single woman receives compliments, flowers, sweets and presents as a reminder to celebrate all woman. I understand there is some debate regarding celebrating International Women's Day and the political meaning behind it. At the end of the day, it is a personal choice. For me, it is another reason to send my mum flowers, to give chocolates to

my female friends and colleagues, and of course to receive a bouquet or two from men who care, and who doesn't like flowers and chocolates? I began my career in real estate. I never tried to compete with men, instead, I would win my clients and deals over with a different approach to my male colleagues. Unlike most of my male colleagues, money never was my main driver, but I always wanted to do a good job and make my clients happy. I was less pushy, more honest and understanding with my clients. I would try to see their problems, requirement and the real reasons behind their property search. Often it would take longer to find a perfect property or to close a deal, but this way I would get clients for life, who trust me, come back to me and always recommend me. I had some tough moments when I felt I was crossed and mistreated, but soon I noticed, that I am attracting the right people and clients, who I would be comfortable to work with. I believe we are all different, in real estate there is a niche for all types: for pushy or gentle, for cheeky or delicate. The main thing is to know who you are and what your values and strengths are."

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Sheila Nortley, founder of Dreamscape

“It’s a day for women all over the world to feel encouraged, appreciated, and to feel unashamed of being women in what is so often a man’s world. There’s a saying that ‘women are half of society and give birth to the other half’ and International Women’s Day is a reminder that our issues are relevant and valid, our voices are not only heard, they are powerful - and that our differences are to be explored and celebrated irrespective of race, class, religion or nationality.”

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Rebecca Oatley, Managing Director of Cherish PR

“It’s important to have a day like International Women’s Day to celebrate and remember the struggles that women have endured to be considered equal in our society and best in class in our companies, in our government, in our public institutions and in our homes.  It’s a day when we can learn from their strength and recognise their achievements. Yet it’s even more important to recognise and put pressure on those countries and societies where women are still struggling against institutional bias. Remind yourself that on this day you too can make a positive change.”

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Nancy Thomson, CEO of Thomson Environmental Consultants

International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate and showcase women’s achievements.  Women have come a long way in the STEM sector since I started my first business and I am delighted that progress has been made.  Science is an area that should be as open to women as it is to men, and my career path, I hope, shows that it is possible as a woman to run a successful STEM business.  However I do believe there is room for more progress, for example with more women in top positions in STEM related businesses and that is the next challenge to tackle.  

My advice is for any woman looking for a good starting role in environment or ecology or any other STEM discipline is to look at the gender split within the company you are interested in

and the numbers of women in senior positions. That may give you a clue as to your future success in the business.”

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Jessica Murphy, Co-Founder at True Fit

“Throughout the month of March we will be featuring profiles of women across our company.  The creativity, passion and innovation these incredible women contribute, undoubtedly make True Fit better every day.  I’m so inspired to watch our Women not only thrive at one of the fastest growing tech companies, but also lead many areas of our company.

As a tech company that builds products for retailers selling to shoppers who are 85% women, having strong female representation across every function of this company is critical for success. Men and women at True Fit, balanced and working side by side to build technology that is changing the way people shop, makes us unstoppable.”

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Sandra Igwe, founder of The Motherhood Group

"International Women's Day needs to be celebrated, in fact more than once a year. It's amazing and hopeful when I think about how far we have come as a gender, but it's also important to highlight the ares we still need to fight for, like equal pay and inequality in less fortunate countries. Nevertheless, us women should celebrate each other - flaws, strengths, imperfections and persistence"

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Emilie Bellet, Founder of Vestpod 

“International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate all of the amazing women I know. This year, IWD theme is #balanceforbetter, which means: Better the Balance, Better the World and it’s aiming at building a gender-balanced world and that's what we need especially in financial services. We have come a long way but there is still some work to be done.

“I am very lucky to be able to build Vestpod for women to become financially independent and to be supported by so many great women. We will be celebrating on March 15th for a breakfast event with the Vestpod community and 3 inspiring speakers who are driving change and are also willing to talk about money: Bev Shah founder at City Hive, Laura Whateley journalist and writer and Sharmadean Reid founder at Beautystack. Happy IWD!”

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Christie Day, Group Director of Women In Business EXPO

“One of the most valuable things to have in business is a balanced, diverse workforce. In fact several reports, from the likes of Credit Suisse, Fortune and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, have shown that having women as a percentage of company boards directly links to better financial performance for that company. But whilst women make a big impact in this way, it’s disheartening that there is still more men called Steve or David who are FTSE 100 CEO's than there are women. For businesses to really benefit from a balance workforce, and for us to enable more women to be CEO’s, there needs to be steps taken amongst the business community to deliver mentorship, varied opportunities and support for women on that journey. Recognition also needs

to be given to the handful of incredible women already in those roles, and as a society we have a responsibly to showcase these women as role models who will inspire the next generation. After all, it’s only by providing people with an environment open to gender-balance and the tools to succeed that we will finally see more women than Steve or David sitting in the top seat in FTSE 100 businesses.”

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Dr Uchenna Okoye BDS (Lond) MSc (Man), Clinical Director London Smiling Dental Group

“Absolutely, yes! It’s very important to step back and evaluate, looking back to where we were and where we are now. Of course one day is not enough to celebrate the  huge achievements of Women, but it provides an opportunity to engage in a conversation that may inspire change. I love the tag line for this year. Think equal, build smart, innovate for change. Today is an opportunity to celebrate women all over the world, their resilience, incredible strength and the difference they make every day.”

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Rachel Bradley, founder of Gossip Girl PR 

“I am founder of Gossip Girl PR and my passion is helping women find their voice in business.  I am also TRIBE boss of Girl Tribe Gang Reading and run monthly meetings supporting women in their business journey.  I recently hosted an event to celebrate IWD2019 (March 6th) at Fora in Reading.  We had 45 women in attendance, all different ages, all different places in their career.  Some start ups, some aspiring to start their own thing, others working 9 – 5 whilst spinning a side hustle. 

We all agreed that there is still a definite unconscious bias towards men in the workplace.  People select men without them even realising it.  So women need to be bolder, braver and ballsy!  International Women’s Day provides an opportunity for women to remind each other of this.   A reminder that ‘you can do this’ and reassurance that other women have got your back.

I feel very lucky that I can work in an industry where I can thrive, in a position where I choose to work with other women.  But I also have to remember that this isn’t the case for everyone.  I’m a small business owner.  I can call the shots.  Corporately, many many women can’t.  Flexible working (for everyone) still isn’t where it should be.  International Women’s Day is an annual reminder that we still have a long way to go.  It’s always a great opportunity to celebrate how far we have come.”

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Eva Murray, Head of Business Intelligence at data analytics platform Exasol

“International Women’s Day is an important date in the calendar for women across the world to unite, to share, and to learn from one another. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to highlight achievements and challenges facing women today. I personally use the occasion as a chance to collaborate with others and highlight specific women’s causes, through data stories and community challenges that turn data into tangible insights. Initiatives such as #Data+Women and #WomenInTech are very important to me as well, so I work to connect people with the right opportunities for their career progression and development. It’s crucial that women are supported in the workplace all year round, not just on International Women’s day. There has been great progress in recent years, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.”

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Managing Director & Principal Coach, Lenka Lutonska

"International Women’s Day is of massive importance to me and it is a time to celebrate the cultural, career, economic, and political achievements of women. We must see just how far we have come, but we also need to look to the future and see where even more positives changes and advancements can be made. I work with some amazing women who are constantly breaking down the gender-based barriers that could have stopped them from reaching their goals, and this is what we should all be working towards for future generations.”

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Deshini Newman, Managing Director EMEA at (ISC)2

“Today we celebrate International Women’s Day and recognise the remarkable achievements that women have contributed to every aspect of work and life. Women continue to play a significant role in the workforce whilst managing demands outside of the work environment. Today serves as a focal point for change when it comes to gender equality – now, more than ever. There is a stronger call to action than ever before for gender equality, recognition of the disparity and celebration of the contribution women make to our communities.  

In the technology sector, there has been great work done to encourage more women into the industry and into aspects of IT – such as cybersecurity. Some 20% of the sector is female, a figure that has almost doubled in the last six years. But we can and must do much more to grow this figure, creating a diverse

workforce that can make a difference to keeping us safe and secure in the cyber world. In the UK, organisations such as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have taken the initiative. Its CyberFirst competition, designed to give as many school-age girls as possible the opportunity to find out more about cybersecurity, is intended to help influence the subjects they take at GCSE. This is an example of the initiatives we need to see more of to encourage more women of all ages to take up STEM subjects, as well as to pursue technology and boardroom leadership roles. For example, according to independent analysts, 80% of CISOs in Fortune 500 companies are male.

The argument is clear – a balanced world is a better world for creativity and innovation. We’ve seen great strides and efforts to bring gender balance to STEM subjects and careers, along with addressing gender pay gaps – but more work still needs to be done. The same applies across the wider IT industry as well as in business leadership roles. Greater gender diversity can only serve to bring benefits to business and society. More voices at the table who would otherwise be unheard, more debate that would otherwise not happen, more ideas that would otherwise not gain a platform. It is why #BalanceforBetter needs to be something we strive for every day, not just today.”

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Katie Taylor, CEO and Founder of The Latte Lounge

“It is SO important that we celebrate IWD.  For so many years we have not had the right to vote, we don’t get equal pay still, we have suffered in so many personal ways hence the ME Too campaign.

But for me, we just don’t get recognised as entrepreneurs, being dubbed ‘mumpreneurs’ when dads are not dubbed ‘dadpreneurs’.  We are mums, wives, sisters, aunts, friends and daughters who manage to juggle home and work life whilst living in the sandwich generation of having to look after our kids and parents too.  And all of this whilst often suffering from terrible hormonal and gynaecological problems be it peri menopause or menopause or period pain/breast cancer etc etc.  We don’t complain we just get on and do it all, and my FB group and website is testament to that.  We have thousands of stories of women doing incredible things in business and at home.”

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Denise Mortimer, Life Coach and a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming

“IWD is an opportunity for sisters around the worlld to celebrate women's achievements and highlight the contribution of women across our globe.   Despite advances in equalities women still make less money than men, they are still less likely to start a business, and are less likely to challenge the system.  International Women's Day provides an opportunity to showcase those who've stepped up and created amazing businesses and lives, it also provides an opportunity to open the discussions about the work that still needs to be done to create a more equal society.”