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Lean in for International Women's Day

Lean in for International Women's Day
IPA Director of Marketing Janet Hull writes about last week's inspirational breakfast event at Facebook HQ in London.

What is feminism today?

This was the main issue vexing attendees at former IPA President Nicola Mendelsohn’s Facebook breakfast to help celebrate International Women’s Day.

Is it a word most of us women want to be associated with?

53% say not, according to Elle Editor and panellist Lorraine Candy quoting her most recent readership poll.

Perhaps the word has been tainted, but when you look at what it means, it’s still as relevant as ever, countered Claire Enders of Enders Analysis.

It’s about ‘equal opportunity’ not a war on the sexes.

Feminism needs to be inclusive, not exclusive, to keep all women engaged and to bring men into the conversation.

In the West there are still imbalances in pay, and innate biases in skills, and talents.

Women veer toward the caring professions, HR, client service and the arts; men towards finance, business, the sciences and technology.

But the room full of women at Facebook were proof positive of how far women have come in bridging that divide.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep on trying. Mutual support is still important to get women’s voices heard, to overturn unconscious bias in the boardroom, in the business world, and in government.

And women of the West have a responsibility to stand up and help ‘make it happen’ for women in other parts of the world.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Global COO, was beamed in to talk, among other things, about ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ – the Facebook page with 770,000 followers where women in Iran dare to be photographed without headscarves.

Is education the answer?

Shazia and Kainat, two youth ambassadors for ‘A World at School’ believe it is. Both survivors, alongside Malala, of the Taliban attack on their school bus in Pakistan in 2012, they are now being educated in Britain.

They spoke with relish about the difference it had made to them and their aspirations for the future. Only one of them will be allowed back into their country.

Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld - a charity that works for a future where all children can have a safe birth, a great education and a chance to change the world - called the United Nations to account.

She declared, “58 million young people still don’t go to school and 31 million of them are girls.” We were all invited to sign a petition on behalf of the world’s youth demanding action on education.

They already have three million signatures, but are looking for more.

I was pleased to introduce a 17-year-old friend of my daughter’s, Grace Keppel, to the London organizer.

We were told, “It’s building scale and matching schools in the UK to schools in other parts of the world that will help us really make a difference.”

Grace is already halfway there, having initiated a fundraising and mentoring programme with schools in Uganda and Afghanistan.

Where next? A global youth ambassador for the petition group #UpForSchool?

We left energized, inspired, but definitely not satisfied. Lean in, everyone.

Janet Hull OBE is the IPA Director of Marketing.

Click here for more information on International Women's Day.

Journalist Kym Nelson reports on the Women of the World Festival.

Dare CEO Leigh Thomas reveals her ideas to create genuine gender equality.

Last updated 09/03/2015

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