International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women throughout the world. Some may question the relevance of such a day, particularly in the West, but I challenge that view. International Women’s Day is as relevant today as it was when it was first observed over 100 years ago. Not only is it a celebration of women, but also as recognition that the power structures of our societies are imbalanced. The early 1900s was a time of expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world and rapid population growth. Today in our global society, turbulence and an imbalance of power remain, but how the imbalance manifests itself and its magnitude differs across cultures, societies, and communities.
I would add that these are not issues exclusive to women. But, today we can choose to stand with women across the world and take action to redress this imbalance and by doing so benefit others in society who are less empowered or marginalised.
No one should be denied their basic rights, whether on the basis of their gender or any other criteria. No one should be denied access to healthcare, education, justice, shelter, nor live in fear of violence, persecution or abuse, or otherwise be discriminated against.
The sad truth is that people are, and this is not a developing or emerging world issue, but it is happening across our communities. Take the issue of domestic violence and abuse, which affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men (during their adult lives) in the UK. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, class, age or culture. Nor is it exclusively women impacted, but men and children too. Notably, it also affects families and wider communities, as well as consuming public resources (such as healthcare, housing, policing), and impacting employers and national productivity. Whilst the UK Government’s commitment to tackling domestic violence is welcome much more needs to be done. And employers have a role to play; indeed the work of the Corporate Alliance demonstrates that employers do make a significant contribution. The UN’s theme this International Women’s Day focuses on Women at Work. The workplace is a place where we can all make a difference.
So, wherever you are, whatever you do, individual or organisation, let’s all be bold for change.
Sara Hamilton is an Ambassador for the Corporate Alliance, a solicitor and Operations Officer within the Legal and Compliance Division at Morgan Stanley.