International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is an annual celebration of the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women.
On 8 March each year, people come together across the globe to rally for women’s equality through widespread activities.
Why is this day important?
Although the world has made significant progress, no country has yet achieved gender equality.
According to the United Nations, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. As of 2019, less than 25% of parliamentarians were women. Additionally, one in three women experience gender-based violence.
This day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the progress made, raise awareness of women’s equality and celebrate acts of courageous women who’ve made an imprint on our history and communities.
Clearly, there is much more to be done in the fight for gender equality, so we want to strive to make a positive difference for women.
This year’s official theme, #ChooseToChallenge, encourages people to speak out against gender bias and inequality. From challenge comes change, so by embodying this theme, we can help create an inclusive world.
The United Nations has also announced the theme ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World’. The current pandemic has demonstrated how effectively women leaders and women’s organisations have been leading the Covid-19 response through their skills, knowledge and networks. This theme focuses on the recent acceptance that women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table.
How are we celebrating International Women’s Day?
Leeds City College Students’ Union is launching a new Vocal Girls Group at 4pm on Monday 8 March. This group is a safe space for women to come together to discuss the changes they want to see in college and the wider city and work together to make them a reality.
During the first meeting, the group will discuss the core areas where women and girls are unfairly impacted in both college and the wider city and how they might create campaigns to tackle these issues. You can join the Google Hangouts group here.
Kamile, the college’s This Girl Can ambassador, will be hosting women’s only sessions focusing on health, wellbeing and physical activity. The first session takes place on Friday 12 March 3pm. Join the Google Hangouts session here.
In January, the Student Life Enrichment team launched the very first Empowering Women Week. Visit here to hear from the participants and view the resources.
Women in leadership
We spoke with some of our women leaders at college to find out their thoughts on International Women’s Day.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Mitch Scott, Head of School, Engineering and Automotive Technologies at Leeds City College: “This is a great opportunity to highlight success stories of females in industry and inspire the younger generation to strive for exciting and challenging roles.”
Will you/your department be doing anything to celebrate?
Mitch: “We have highlighted our female learners on our notice boards and we have inspirational descriptions of individuals that have made a difference in the world of STEM.”
Why did you choose the career that you are in?
Mitch: “I wanted the opportunity to share and guide the next generation within the STEM areas, showing by example that females can be strong and supportive leaders.”
Why did you decide to work within the education sector?
Ann-Marie Spry, Group Vice Principal – Curriculum and Adult, Community and ESOL at Leeds City College: “Initially, whilst at school I wanted to be a maths teacher because I had a great teacher who helped me get my A level in maths. However, I went to train to work in the NHS following a science degree with professional status, where I realised that education was what I was most passionate about.
As a result, I trained to teach science, which I had always felt was not applied to real life situations, so I chose to deliver science within curriculum in health science, food science, sport science and science in a range of other vocational subjects. The science thread gave me a varied teaching and subsequently led to a leadership career.”
What does Leeds City College/your department do to overcome gender stereotypes?
Mitch: “We show that there are no barriers with gender in all of our job roles, leading by example with females holding positions from apprentice teachers all the way up to heads of departments.”
Why do you feel it’s important to promote women and girls in STEM?
Ann-Marie: “Within STEM subjects, girls are underrepresented along with black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students and people with disabilities. These subjects provide an exciting and often well-paid career option and impact every aspect of our lives.
Studying STEM gives us a chance to be at the forefront of advancements that really improve quality of life and how society works and impacts the planet. STEM skills are transferable and give fabulous opportunities in the world of work. We all need to be able to adapt and change over our work life and STEM skills will give you those abilities.”
What more do you think can be done to encourage women and girls to choose STEM subjects?
Ann-Marie: “More role models, case studies of successful women, better linking STEM theory and knowledge to real life examples so girls can see that science is all around us and not only for the elite.”
On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
Mitch: “Be brave, be ambitious, be all you can; if the examples are not there already then be the trailblazer that becomes the example.”
Take a look at the International Women’s Day resources here.