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Do we still need International Women’s Day?

Do we still need International Women’s Day?

It’s 8th March so it’s International Women’s Day.  The objectives of International Women’s Day are to:

  • celebrate women’s achievements
  • raise awareness about women’s equality
  • lobby for accelerated gender parity
  • fundraise for female focused charities. 

Of course, there is an unwritten rule in our society that you can’t have a day for women without making it about men and apparently “So it’s International Women’s Day, when’s there going to be International Men’s Day?” or the like is one of the most posted items over social media every 8th March. 

National Pie Week which runs immediately beforehand from 1 – 7 March doesn’t generate such controversy.  I wonder why?  Pasties don’t tweet I guess.    

Contrary to popular belief there is in fact an International Men’s Day (and it’s not “the other 364 days in the year” as is the common reply) which takes place every 19th November.  Funnily enough there aren’t many social media posts on that day that ask why there isn’t an International Women’s Day.

Indeed incorrect social media posts on International Women’s Day bemoaning the perceived inequality for men is so prevalent that for years the comedian Richard Herring did a ‘tweetathon’ answering each post.  Here is a nice article about it with the wonderful opening line “An oddity of International Men’s Day is that people actually tweet about it most around International Women’s Day, almost nine months earlier.”

Last year Richard Herring’s tweetathon efforts, which he describes as “”a Herculean task in the face of ignorance and the inability to Google” raised £70,000 for Refuge, the charity for women and children against domestic violence.  It was also apparently his last.  It appears it is a knackering task to respond to all those who centre men on a day of celebration for women because there are so many of them. I find that depressingly easy to believe. I speculate of course but perhaps holding a mirror up to society’s deeply embedded misogyny stopped being funny for this comedian when year after year it just repeated itself. 

Interestingly 20th November 2020 last year, the very next day after International Men’s Day, was Equal Pay Day (NB – International Men’s day is consistently held on 19th November each year, Equal Pay Day changes according to the Gender Pay Gap reporting each year).  Equal Pay Day is the day where women apparently work for free until the end of the year.  In 2020 for every £1 earned by a man a women earned just 83 pence. 

However, the underpayment of 17% by virtue of simply being female pales in comparison to the underpayment experienced by females in the financial sector.  A recent study by Fox & Partners reported by the Guardian has concluded that female finance firm directors earn 66% less than their male counterparts.  That means that for every £1 earned by a senior male, a female of matching seniority is paid just 34 pence.  So, that would roughly make a women in this sector’s Equal Pay Day to be around 1st May as they are, in comparison to their male counterparts, working two thirds of the year for free. 

The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911 when the legal landscape and rights of women were very different to today.  It is unsurprising that many will question if we still need such a day.  But the figures above demonstrate that we are far from achieving equality. 

Look, I agree that there seems to be a ‘day for everything’ these days (World Sandwich Day anyone?*) and the International Women’s Day’s own website even asks if it is still needed.  It convincingly answers “Yes! There’s no place for complacency. According to the World Economic Forum, sadly none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children. Gender parity will not be attained for almost a century.” 

It is clear that International Women’s Day, and with it continuing campaign for real change, is still required. 

This blog is written by Tess Barrett, solicitor at didlaw

* For those who want to know World Sandwich Day is every 3 November