Leaning in. The quiet revolution.

As International Women’s Day draws to a close for 2017, I’ve been reflecting on why it is necessary to have such a day.

It is simple. International Women’s Day (IWD) is about acknowledging that in 2017, women still face discrimination and are under represented in many aspects of public life. Discrimination comes in many guises. For example, from the blatant sacking and sidelining of women who are pregnant, to everyday sexism, such as using derogatory language which subtly undermines women. Check out the Everyday Sexism project if you want to know more..

The theme of IWD this year was be bold for change. That means we need to encourage women to step forward to help forge a better working world. To work towards a more inclusive, gender equal world.

My social media feeds were alive today with quotes and inspiration from remarkable women from all round the world. But much closer to home, there is a quiet revolution underway. Women, and men, from all walks of life, of different ages and a myriad of professions are leaning in and encouraging each other to aim high.

The leader of the revolution is Nuala Murphy, a Belfast-Based entrepreneur and the founder of Lean In Belfast.

Lean In was founded by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. It is a huge network of individuals and organisations which exist locally, nationally and globally to empower women to achieve their ambitions and work towards gender equality in the workplace and society at large. Sheryl wrote a book entitled ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’, which Nuala read when she was pregnant with her first son.

Its themes really resonated with her experience. Sheryl Sandberg’s story made her feel inspired and hopeful, but also frustrated that in 2013 there was still a lack of women in leadership positions.

Deciding that not enough was being done to change this, Nuala took action. She found out about Lean In circles and, after discussing the idea with some local women, it was clear there absolutely was a need for this group.

With the support of these women, who became the founding members of Lean In Belfast, Nuala set up the Belfast circle just before she had her second son. And so the Lean In journey began.

Lean In Belfast has exceeded all expectations, with membership growing to nearly 1000 in two years.

The next phase of development is the #LeanInTogether campaign with Allstate, to encourage men to Lean In, as working together is essential to eliminate gender stereotypes and gain equality for all.

Until equality across genders is achieved, the need for IWD will continue. In the meantime, by leaning in, every day can be a women’s day.

Why not check out http://leaninbelfast.com.

Ps before you ask, International Men’s Day is 19 November.

Sara McCracken works in communications for an educational body. She previously worked for the Green Party for #AE16 and in the health sector.

  • Nevin

    “The theme of IWD this year was be bold for change.”

    It would appear that today’s women have not been formed in the same mould as the truly remarkable Martha Craig from an earlier era. Deeds not words IMO are what really matter and there can have been few women bolder than Martha in her generation.

  • ‘Gender equality’ in the workplace already exists. To be given the same opportunity as the person next to you, only to find to your disappointment that they’ve done better… is not proof of ‘inequality’. Your frustration and disappointment does not translate to ‘inequality’.

    Moreover, since you’ve had equality for a long time and simply haven’t been able to do anything with it, you’re now demanding privilege. You want the goalposts moved, to Sovietize our society.

    People are getting sick and tired of these faux buzzwords and statements.

  • Prove it, Cyrus. There is a lot of research showing continuing inequality, and continuing discrimination despite the words of the laws.

  • Shar

    Studies have shown that the chance of a job application being successful is higher if it’s submitted under a male name, compared to the identical application submitted under a female name: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/unofficial-prognosis/study-shows-gender-bias-in-science-is-real-heres-why-it-matters/

    Women can be penalised compared to men, rather than rewarded when they try to negotiate pay increases or other job-related benefits: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/cfawis/bowles.pdf and http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/lean-out-the-dangers-for-women-who-negotiate

    When women participate in meetings, they are judged as talking too much, taking up too much time; when measurements show men talk more. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-09/byu-wsl091812.php

    There are studies that show women of child-bearing age are shifted out before job interview stage. Studies that show women are seen as too aggressive” or not team players when they take a confident or assertive stance in work; whereas men who take a similar stance are assessed as showing good leadership. Studies that show women who are assertive at interview are not hired at similar rates to men who are assertive at interview.

    There are moving goalposts, but they’re not moving to the benefit of women. And women are getting sick and tired of it.

  • Shar