It feels like this one is bigger than ever – loads of events, programmes and articles and a top of the twitter trend list.
Of course, it’s used as a day to get some pretty depressing news out. Liz Blogshaw in the FT highlights the GMI Women on Boards survey, with 10.5% of board seats worldwide occupied by women. The regional variations are striking, while Norway’s boards are 36.3% female, only 1.1% of Japan’s directors are female.
Cherie Blair in the Evening Standard explained why this matters “In a world in which human capital is more than ever the most important raw material, there is now compelling evidence that businesses or countries that fish in only half the talent pool are handicapping themselves badly.”
Out of the boardroom, and the developed world, women are faring much worse. Despite producing up to 80% of the food in Africa, women own only 1% of the agricultural land. UNESCO has pulled together an atlas of the experience of women across the world. “Rural households headed by women are among the most vulnerable of the world’s approximately 1 billion rural living in extreme poverty in developing countries.” They estimate that 60% of the people suffering from chronic hunger in the world are female.
Lilly Be'Soer Kolts, founder of the women's human rights NGO, Voice for Change, in Papua New Guinea highlights the challenges facing women in Papua New Guinea in a Youtube film about her experiences. She has been a victim of tribal conflict and also a survivor of polygamous marriage. She is currently raising six children alone. She defines herself as "a women's human rights defender" and has taken a lead in facilitating mediation of tribal conflicts and wars.
The Guardian has done an analysis of political representation of women across the world. The world average for women in parliament was 19.5% in 2011, a 0.5% increase from the previous year.
A couple of people (men, as it happens) have asked me today why we need an International Women’s Day at all. In their eyes, especially from their cosy London perspective, women aren’t doing too badly. That’s exactly why we need it. It is great to have a day to focus on the imbalances that exist across the world. Put into perspective the progress that’s been made and highlight the work still to be done. Whether looking at women in politics, the boardroom or on the edge of survival, International Women’s Day is about inequality and imbalance – and the impact that has on people’s life chances.
So, happy International Women’s Day and here’s to some better news next year.