I was greeted this morning by fireworks on Facebook; ‘huzzah’ it’s international women’s day it loudly declared.
A little much for a pre-coffee greeting I thought at first and then, over my oats, I began to ponder. Is this really a day of celebration? If so, what exactly is it that we are celebrating? Women, progress, achievement?
As I reached for my coffee, whilst simultaneously packing lunches, checking emails, navigating the art of the preferred ponytail angle and having a battle with Ruby, the PlayMobil pirate who is the defender of gold, it suddenly seemed extraordinary to me that we would dedicate one day of the year to 3.52 billion people (just under half of the world’s population) which feels slightly at odds with the scale of this group. The more I think about it, the more peculiar it seems.
I think the seeds of my wondering had be sown by my fabulous colleague Esther Sijbranda who, when speaking at our inaugural WomenEd Netherlands lead-meet earlier this week, talked about her experiences in challenging inequality, in all its facets, from dinner-table debates as a child around the rights of the individual through to experiences in her professional and personal life. She challenged the notion of the one-day focus in a world where this should be an everyday focus; yes.
Another colleague Sandra DeBresser talked about data and research from around the world looking at women in the workplace alongside social mobility and financial disparities across the world and in my now adopted home of the Netherlands. There are still many gender inequalities and does one day marginalise this or is it a prompt and reminder for us all that all is not equal?
Let’s not forget that 31 million girls across the world still don’t have access to primary education.
This is not to say that the achievements of women all around the world should not be celebrated, of course they should. This is not to say that there has been much progress, of course there has been. Equally, it is not to say that a day highlighting the role of women in our world is not of value. It is.
For us as educators and school leaders, I see IWD as a vehicle, a reminder, a marker in the sand that encourages us to pause, hold ourselves to account and think of what’s next. This is a day of celebration and a day to firmly take stock. We should ask ourselves, what has changed since #IWD2016 and before? Have we been catalysts for change? Have we inspired and supported women in our profession and girls in our schools to be that little bit bolder? Have we explored all possible avenues to eliminate barriers to progress?
I am excited about the prospects that these conversations will bring about. I am excited to meet other women in education and think about how we can cultivate and nurture future women leaders within education. So, thank you Facebook for starting my day with a bang this morning and to all those who are doffing their cap in honour of #IWD2017! I am celebrating and also reflecting!