"Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”
With these words, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon helped set the agenda for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), which will be celebrated on 8 March with events all over the world.
Conceived as part of the movement for equal rights, shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights for women, IWD has been observed since the early 1900s. In the 21st century, it is a holiday in many nations, where people honour their wives, mothers, girlfriends and colleagues with small gifts, similar to Mother’s Day.
Since IWD began, for many countries, significant change has been achieved for women, and many people consider the battles to have been won. Women sit on the boards of major companies and organisations, and there is greater equality of legislative rights and a wealth of female role models in all walks of life. However, we have still not achieved full equality, particularly at senior levels in both government and across business. The pay gap is still a reality, and in many nations women do not enjoy the same freedoms and rights as men.
In the UK, IWD has now become a celebration of the positives: a chance to inspire women and think about the challenges we all face in our working lives.
For anyone who has not previously been involved with IWD, there can be a perception that it is just for and about women. But I would like to challenge that: gender equality issues are about and for everyone. Many of the issues affect men as much as women, particularly in light of increases in flexible working rights and expectations. IWD celebrates the achievements and challenges faced by senior women, who can also be seen as role models for both men and women seeking to develop their careers.
Within HMRC, a series of events is being coordinated by the Senior Women’s Group, part of the Gender Network, with support from FDA and PCS diversity and learning representatives. The events will take place on 5 March in London, Bristol, Cardiff, St Austell, Nottingham, Norwich, Stratford, Birmingham, Liverpool, Shipley, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Belfast. We are very pleased to be working with the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive in hosting these events, which will be open to staff from across government.
Based around the theme of “challenge”, the events will include discussion groups where people can get involved in thinking about their career development, and how to put in place plans to make their aspirations a reality. It is also an opportunity to network and find out more about the work of the Gender Networks in HMRC and across government.
In addition, the Ministry of Justice is hosting this year’s cross-Whitehall event for IWD on 9 March. The event will be a celebration of the achievements of women across the civil service, and a chance to consider the next steps for women’s networks in the service.
For more information about the HMRC events taking place in your location, contact Elinor.Crockford@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk, and for details about the Ministry of Justice IWD event, contact Caroline.Thomas@justice.gsi.gov.uk