Every year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8th March around the world, and since 1987 the month of March has been celebrated in the US as ‘Women’s History Month’. The IWD theme for this year is ‘Inspiring Change’. In recognition, we highlight some women who have inspired change and whose notable achievements have contributed towards the global fight for equality.
Malala Yousafzai is the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for women’s education. She was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize: “I don’t know why people have divided the whole world into two groups, west and east. Education is neither eastern nor western, education is education and it’s the right of every human being.”
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi spoke out against brutal Burmese dictator U Ne Win and was placed under house arrest for 15 years. She initiated a non-violent movement towards achieving democracy and human rights. In 2011, she won her election for a seat in office and has also been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: “Even one voice can be heard all over the world in this day and age.”
Christine Lagarde is a French lawyer and politician. She was the first woman to become Finance Minister of a G8 economy and the first woman to head the IMF. “It’s a question of not so much pushing the boys out of the picture, but making the whole frame bigger so that both men and women access the labour market, contribute to the economy, generate growth, have jobs, and so on.” “Keep at it. Life is extraordinary. Don’t Give Up.”
Paulette Brown was recently formally nominated to be the American Bar Association’s next president-elect by unanimous vote. She is reaching new heights as the first woman lawyer of color to be nominated and will become the president-elect at the ABA annual meeting in August 2014. Paulette’s work as Edwards Wildman’s Chief Diversity Officer advances the firm’s diversity mission statement and exemplifies how we can all inspire and effect change in our immediate environments: “I would never -suggest to you that I have all of the answers or a silver bullet to continue our progress on an even greater scale. But, I know working together, widening our net, having diversity of opinion and thought, we can accomplish great things.”
Sheryl Sandberg is an American businesswoman and chief operating officer of Facebook. She is the first woman to serve on Facebook’s Board. Previously, she was Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, and served as Chief of Staff for the United States Secretary of the Treasury. Her book, Lean In looks to inspire change in women to help them achieve their career goals, and men who want to contribute to a more equitable society: “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”
Baroness Hale was the first woman to become an English Law Lord and is currently the only female justice of the English Supreme Court. She has campaigned to increase the diversity of the judiciary, worked to overhaul family law, and wrote the first comprehensive survey of women’s rights at work: “We think we have got equal opportunities, but I would guess, for all sorts of reasons, they’re not necessarily truly equal because so much assessment of merit is subjective.”
Despite the encouraging gains and changes for women which have occurred in our lifetimes, there is still an enormous amount of work to be done if we are to promote the correction of the remaining imbalances. We live in a world where women in Saudi Arabia will not have the right to vote until 2015, 41 million girls worldwide are denied a primary school education, and in China women are restricted from studying certain subjects such as mining and navigation. Closer to home, the gender pay gap in the Western world is increasing, in 2013 only 17% of women made up the boards on UK FTSE 100 companies, and globally women make up less than 20% of parliamentarians. Only 17% of women are equity partners in large law firms. The fight for equality continues and everybody can make a personal difference.