Friday 6 March 2020 4:14 pm

DEBATE: Is International Women’s Day an outdated concept?

Sarah Hawkins is client director at StormBrands.
Wendy Martin
Wendy Martin is commercial director at Reed Words.

Is International Women’s Day an outdated concept?

Sarah Hawkins, client director at StormBrands, says YES.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has a branding issue. The day lacks a clear purpose, story, and identity. What is it for? Who are the figureheads? What are their credentials?

The official website totally lacks provocation and tone of voice. Follow the hashtag and you’ll find a mix of pastels, soft focus images and cheesy quotes. Thankfully, Wikipedia gets you straight to the point — IWD is about equality and changing perceptions. Okay, but how?

Sure, we should celebrate women’s achievements, but these only have an impact in context. The focus needs to be more about getting the steps right first, bringing everyone together to recognise the problem, and then making positive change to overcome it.

And the branding needs to make clear that this is not a fight against men — we need them on our side.

In contrast, take the video “Be A Lady, They Said” that has recently gone viral

Yes, the execution is full-on. Yes, it’s too long. But what it gets right is demonstrating provocatively the real tensions that women face, without the patronising, fluffy nonsense.

Read more: Like a boss: Cherie Blair on helping women start their own business

Wendy Martin, commercial director at Reed Words, says NO.

We still face serious equality issues in the UK — around pay, opportunities, and abuse. And women in other parts of the world continue to face fundamental challenges each day that are as shocking as they are heart-breaking.

The awareness raised by International Women’s Day is changing things.

When I started in the advertising industry over 20 years ago, 90 per cent of senior positions were held by men. The few women in leadership roles were ball-breakers, and the pay “gap” was more of a pay chasm.

We have made progress. I’m now part of a team with as many women as men in senior positions, and zero pay gap. Work-life balance is built into our ethos. These aren’t political tick-box decisions, but part of a deliberate approach to attract and retain exceptional talent. As a result, our company has never been more successful.

Encouragingly, more and more companies are getting there. So, we must keep speaking out, keep campaigning, keep holding the ladder out for younger women coming up.

Small steps lead to huge progress — here and around the world.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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