Yesterday was International Women’s Day. The women of Nine Feet Tall have been reflecting on the day and how the cultural landscape looks for women in 2020.
IWD 2020 focuses on Celebrating Women’s Achievements. What are you most proud of achieving?
Esther: My greatest achievement is the shiny bright lights of Nine Feet Tall. It’s a thriving business with a fantastic team of talented individuals. I am immensely proud of what we do and the real difference we make to each and every client we work with.
Aleks: I was awarded the Oxford University Press Law Prize for best performance in my academic course (Law and Sociology) for 2018 and 2019. It is still my proudest achievement to date!
Helena: Living and working abroad for a year when I didn’t know anyone my age. This was a huge achievement for me and taught me that the only thing standing in the way of any goal is me.
Orla: I’m most proud of the great lifestyle I’ve built for myself, doing work and hobbies that I’m passionate about and being surrounded by a fantastic supportive network.
Amelia: I am most proud of achieving a Masters degree. It was a really big decision for me to take a change of direction and go against everything I had previously worked hard to achieve and try something completely different. From my year studying I really grew as a person both academically and personally and it’s what led me to Nine Feet Tall!
Who inspires you and why?
Esther: My colleagues at Nine Feet Tall truly inspire me– and that’s not just the female ones. We have a fantastic team of people who bring energy, drive, positivity and expertise to work. They continually challenge the status quo, always come up with creative practical solutions to problems and are able to make change happen. They are resilient, able to balance work alongside their own personal interests and commitment and are a joy to be with.
Aleks: Malala Yousufzai – the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. From a young age, Malala defied the Taliban in Pakistan to speak out about the rights of all women to an education. Surviving an assassination attack by the Taliban for her activism, Malala’s bravery and fight against gender inequality has always been inspirational to me.
Becky: My sister. She is forever striving for a kinder world. She will always stop, reflect and empathise with other people’s situations rather than wade in with judgement.
Orla: Melissa Jefferson – also known as Lizzo. In one of the toughest industries, Lizzo has has done exactly as she pleased and written a new narrative for large women of colour in the music industry. Her confidence in her body and consistent positive attitude is inspiring as it’s a reminder to always back yourself and be proud of your differences.
Angie: Every day, I am inspired by the women in my life who make my life and the world a better place to be in. I am also in awe of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; we need more people like her in politics!
Helena: I’m inspired by people’s attitude to life rather then one person in particular. Individuals who can always turn a situation into a positive inspire me. I think people like paralympic athletes and medical professionals have such resilience and that makes me want to strive to be better in both my personal and professional life
Amelia: I am inspired by Gina Martyn, she successfully campaigned to make upskirting illegal. I am so inspired that a young female was able to awaken the legal system to the threat of sexual assault that women unfortunately face everyday.
IWD 2020 strives to take action for equality. Do you believe the world is a more equal place now?
Aleks: Despite 25 years since the adoption of the UN’s Beijing Declaration aimed to progress international gender equality, women in the EU earn on average 15% less p/h than their male counterparts (European Parliament, March 2020). As well as economic disadvantage, lacking legal protection, access to education and traditional gender roles create daily struggles for women across the world. Regardless of geographical location, inequality persists. Although I do believe there is a growing awareness for the need for gender equality development, we still have a long way to go.
Angie: Yes and no. As a society we are taking great steps in the right direction and equality is at the forefront of much of our collective dialogue. There are so many powerful stories of women achieving incredible things. However, we mustn’t get complacent and ignore the fact that many individuals continue to live in staggering inequality. IWD is a day to celebrate women but it would be great if one day we didn’t need an International Women’s Day..
Becky: Certainly there has been progress, but there is still a long way to go. As the mum of three boys I am determined to teach them that girls and women should always be entitled to the same opportunities as boys and men and vice versa.
Helena: I think we are moving in the right direction but we have a way to go in terms of having total equality I look at the context we work in and notice the ratio of female to males in meetings and often I am in the minority and feel I have to work harder to get my voice heard.
Have any stories in the press about women made you stop and think lately?
Esther: As a fellow hockey player, I read that one of the greatest players Alex Danson-Bennett was forced into retirement due to a long term concussion. She is a great female role model for the sport and I admire her positive approach and outlook on life:
“This is not a sad retirement. I have played more games in more tournaments than I could ever have dreamt of. I have made lifelong friends, travelled the world and loved every single minute of my career. I end my playing days completely content, proud of how I committed every day for 18 years and thankful to have had the most incredible people by my side. I look back and have not one single regret. I lived my dream.”
Aleks: A recent story that has really stood out to me is Finland’s new young female government. The five party leaders in coalition government are mostly under 40 years old and are being led by Sanna Marin – the world’s youngest Prime Minister at 34. The story really made me think about what a rarity it is to see so many strong women in senior positions in Government. It’s a real promotion of diversity and source of female empowerment. In the words of Sanna, hopefully seeing more female leaders will become the ‘new normal’.
Orla: The outrage over Tracy Brabin’s dress showing her shoulder in parliament really highlighted the inequalities in perception of what’s acceptable for a man verses a woman. Sadly, this is an example of the every-day sexism in the workplace that women have to contend with – will people listen to my important debate of current issues or will they just be interested in how I’m dressed?
Amelia: The Taylor Swift documentary on Netflix has really impacted me. The fact women in the limelight are continuously berated and pressured to reinvent themselves in order to stay relevant compared to their male counterparts. This documentary highlights the pressures women are under whether that’s in or out of the spotlight.
Angie: I have been reflecting on whether the recent conviction of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein will set a precedent for how we handle sexual harassment and what it means for women all over the world.
Helena: I can’t actually think of any and maybe that’s an issue in itself. I’d like to see more exposure to inspirational women in the media rather then what Donald Trump is tweeting from day to day!
IWD also aims to raise awareness against bias. Have you ever encountered any bias against women?
Esther: I am sure there are some preconceived notions about gender, but that should not stand in your way. If you believe in your own capabilities and focus on doing a good job, the recognition and respect will follow regardless of your gender, race or age.
Angie: There is no denying that we often encounter bias and it is so important to be able to hold your own in these situations and respond with dignity, confidence and patience. Recently I have been battling with my bank to change my legal title to “Ms” and have been shocked at the bias and ignorance I have encountered.
Becky: Growing up with a passion for football and other sports, I have heard a lot of questionable assumptions about women being able to understand and appreciate sport.
Helena: I am in a fortunate position in that I haven’t been subject to significant bias. However, I do notice bias doing something as simple as walking down the street – for example, I was in London last week and got a tube from Covent Garden to Paddington, I was heckled 6 times by different men in that timeframe! This should not happen and it made me feel objectified.