International Women’s Day 2020: do we still live in a man’s world?

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

On Sunday 8th March, people across the globe will celebrate International Women’s Day. In some places it will be a day of protest, a chance to challenge ongoing gender bias. In other areas, it will be a day that celebrates womanhood and female achievements.

There’s been lots of progress in equality in recent years, but we still have a long way to go.

What does International Women’s Day mean in 2020?

International Women’s Day began at the 1910 International Socialist Women's Conference where working women were honoured. The day has been celebrated ever since by suffrage movements, socialist movements and the United Nations.

But what does International Women’s Day mean in today’s world? Is it a chance to celebrate the achievements of women who’ve won? Is it a chance to reflect upon past and ongoing injustice?

In this article, we take a look at both ends of the spectrum as our Founder and CEO Maria Hvorostovsky and our Commercial and HR Director Zia Paul-Birabi explore what this day means to them.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Maria: For me, this day reminds me of my childhood. We celebrated 8th of March in Russia where I grew up. There was a tradition where the boys would make a card and gift it to the girls in their class.

This was always a positive and uplifting day, similar to St. Valentine’s Day, which wasn’t really celebrated in Russia at the time.

For me now, International Women’s Day remains a celebration of a different sort. It’s a day to recognise the achievements of women, a day about mothers, daughters, career women - everyone. It feels wonderful to have a day to be appreciated.

Zia: Honestly it brings mixed feelings. On the one hand it’s a great opportunity for women to champion and shout about the achievements of others.

On the other hand, we seem to be making limited progress when it comes to equal pay, lack of flexible working opportunities for working parents, number of women in senior roles etc. etc.

Too many women are still faced with an all or nothing decision to return to work, or struggle to get back on the career ladder having taken a career break to raise kids.

Having worked and lived in other parts of the world such as Nigeria, I am also only too aware that much greater gender inequalities exist outside of Europe, where women are still considered subordinate and only as homemakers.

What taboos have women broken to allow them to achieve success?

Maria: I think what has made an impact is that women have created their own networks and are now more than ever willing to help each other.

This allows issues that were once private and not spoken about to come to the surface so that women can see the issues and work together to resolve them. If no one says anything, everyone assumes the problems are unique to them.

I am also happy to see more and more women using their strengths, talents and individuality to succeed. Retail is in a bad way at the moment and brands I see doing well often have their own style of doing things, many of which have women at the helm.

Another taboo that seems to have been broken is that women are not having to behave in a way that’s not natural to them, not having to adopt an ‘aggressive’ style if that’s not them, or having to be ‘pleasant’ if they have a more direct communication style.

I love hearing stories of when women break down the labels given to them. For example when a petite softly spoken woman walks into a boardroom (usually dominated by men) and takes everyone aback by having killer arguments in a negotiation without having to raise her voice. That’s yielding your power in your own way.

Zia: I agree, it doesn’t make you arrogant for congratulating