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.