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What is International Women's Day and why does it matter?

International Women's Day logo

Jill Bell, chair of Women in Planning in the North West, reflects on what International Women's Day means to planners

I’ve recently become chair and helped to launch a new chapter of Women in Planning in the North West of England.

As part of my role I am to give an introductory speech about International Women’s Day for the WiP event marking the day on 8 March, Plan your Career – A celebration of International Women’s Day, with the opportunity to learn more about how to achieve career success.

I have to confess that I only really had a vague idea of what International Women’s Day is about. So I thought that I had better undertake some research on the history and what it is all about. Here’s what I found out:

  • International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
  • The day marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. It’s been observed since the early 1900s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
  • International Women's Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity. No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women's network or media hub is solely responsible for IWD.
  • Many organisations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others.
  • International Women's Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women's Day has been occurring for well over a century, and continues to grow from strength to strength.

What struck me when reading the above was the fact that International Women’s Day is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

"As planners we’re involved daily in projects that have social, economic and cultural impacts on people and places, and we have to engage with politics at a community, local and national level"

As planners we’re involved daily in projects that have social, economic and cultural impacts on people and places, and we have to engage with politics at a community, local and national level. For these reasons alone, I’d say that International Women’s Day should definitely celebrate the work of women across the town planning profession.

But there’s more. Our celebration is in Manchester, the birthplace of the Suffragettes – and 2018 is the centenary of the first votes for women. This year above all seems a particularly good time to reflect on the progress that women have made in the workplace and in professions such as planning – and to think about how we can empower ourselves in the workplace to achieve our career aspirations.

Of course, having a successful career is unique to the individual and can differ over the lifetime of a career. For some it is about having a work/life balance or completing a specific project; for others, it’s achieving a promotion or simply surviving the week while juggling other commitments. Whatever you would like to achieve from your career, you can take control to achieve your goals.

In keeping with the theme of International Women’s Day 2018, we can #PressforProgress – continue to pressure for better, more equal, opportunities for women everywhere. It’s something that Women in Planning was set up to do. We’re expanding, with new groups in the North West, the South Midlands and South Wales to go with the established London group.

We welcome new members, ideas and contributions to events. And men are allowed, too: progress towards gender equality isn’t just about the actions of women. Come and join us. Come to an event. We’d love to hear from you – you can email us at womeninplanning@gmail.com or tweet us @womeninplanning

Jill Bell is chair of Women in Planning North West and a consultant with HGH Consulting


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