International Women’s Day never passes without fevered debate around whether it is really necessary, but this year there are more arguments than usual in favour of dedicating a day to women.
The past six months have been marked by scandals surrounding the treatment of women in the workplace, after Harvey Weinstein was ousted from his position as the most powerful man in Hollywood following a string of revelations about his inappropriate behaviour towards women with whom he worked.
Closer to home, the picture was not much prettier. The Presidents Club annual dinner, which took place at The Dorchester in Park Lane in January, was revealed to be an expensive, tawdry tribute to the kind of lechery that many assumed had died out decades ago.
However, there are still reasons for women to be cheerful. For starters, there’s the fact that so many people felt empowered to come forward and share their experiences of abuse by Weinstein and other Hollywood heavy-hitters, who were duly stripped of their power. Meanwhile, the Presidents Club was shut down, an emphatic rejection of everything its main event stood for.
Similarly, there is plenty to celebrate in the City. In February the number of FTSE 100 board positions held by women rose to a record high of 309 positions, according to research by the department for business, energy and industrial strategy. This puts the UK’s blue chips firmly on track to have women filling a third of board positions by 2020, a target long-campaigned for by Helena Morrissey's 30% Club.
Meanwhile, new equality laws have led to more than 1,400 companies reporting their gender pay gaps, revealing an overall gap of 18.4 per cent among firms with 250 employees or more.
Clearly, there is still more to do, but action is being taken, and the results are starting to show. The number of all male FTSE 350 boards fell from 10 to eight between October last year and February. And while the pay gap may still seem wide, the fact that it is being put out in the open means companies will be forced to take action.
International Women’s Day is a day set aside for the world to appreciate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Today there is more reason than ever to celebrate these achievements.