International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on 8 March and has taken place for over a century, with the first gathering in 1911. It’s not country, group or organisation specific and belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.
The day is about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action and continues to grow from strength to strength. The global 2019 theme – ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’ – focuses on innovative ways in which gender equality and the empowerment of women can be advanced.
Back in January, a four-year-old girl called Esme Summers became the reason Firefighters across the country joined together to help break down the gender barrier in the Fire and Rescue Service. Her mother, Hannah Summers reached out on social media with this tweet which started a movement.
What happened next, not only empowered Esme, but thousands of little girls around the country who’s dream it is to be a firefighter. With more than 3,500 likes the tweet caught the eyes of Fire & Rescue teams and they made videos, sent pictures, invited Esme to join them and stood together.
Proving that International Women’s Day is important, but not exclusive to just 8 March – we take a look at how the emergency services created a real celebration behind the 2019 date and shine the spotlight on just some of those special moments.
Raising awareness through empowerment
Celebrating some inspirational females internationally
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) highlighted the contributions of women to the maritime sector through World Maritime Day – the theme of which was “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”.
Similarly, Maritime UK, the voice of the maritime sector, and its Women in Maritime Taskforce celebrated International Women’s Day with a reception marking the launch of new resources for promoting gender diversity within the sector focused on recruitment and leadership.
Local service-led initiatives
Similarly, several ambulance trusts including North East and North West Ambulance services pledged support behind International Women's Day by showcasing colleague achievements and sharing inspirational role models to encourage women to develop careers in the services. For example, Head of Facilities Management, Anne El-Garidi, shared how her experience in hotel management enabled her to become General Manager in the ambulance service.
At London Ambulance Service, Chair Heather Lawrence OBE shared her inspiration for in a powerful video shown on Twitter. Heather said, “International Women’s Day is an opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of women across London Ambulance Service”.
Networking and celebration events
Celebration was very much taking place offline also, with an array of networking and celebration events across the UK and around the world.
Essex Police Women's Leadership Forum Conference
Essex Police joined forces with colleagues from Kent Police, East of England Ambulance Service and Essex County Fire & Rescue Service to host an event for officers and staff who work within the region's emergency services.
Organised by the Essex Police Women's Leadership Forum (WLDF), the event took place at Chelmsford Race Course and centred around this year's 'Balance for Better' campaign theme.
Almost 300 men and women from the region's emergency services attended the conference taking part in workshops addressing confidence, mindfulness and managing menopause in the workplace, as well as listening to guest speakers Paula Craig MBE and Communications Coach, Nicky Perfect.
Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills, who is the first woman to take up that role for Essex Police, said: "International Women's Day is about celebrating the social, cultural and political achievements of women as well as recognising the success of our female colleagues too.
"It's events like this which enable colleagues to form a supportive network, which encourage women to have a voice and the confidence in their on-going personal and professional development, all working towards balance for better."
South Yorkshire Police | Balance for Better Networking Event
South Yorkshire Police also held a celebration event, where Chief Superintendent Natalie Shaw was crowned Woman of the Year for her dedication and service over almost thirty years.
Keynote speaker Sarah Wright QC and comedienne Sarah Johnson also took to the stage in celebration of the day, and a charity raffle – contributed to by APD Communications amongst others – took place to raise awareness and funds for City Hearts, committed to transforming the lives of the most vulnerable and exploited people in our society.
ACC Lauren Poultney of South Yorkshire Police said “I have been a police officer for over 20 years. I have worked with many extraordinary women, and many extraordinary men. I am proud of my profession and all those who contribute to it.”
Educating the next generation
IWD 2019 saw a number of high-profile services actively promoting and educating young people on the opportunities there are for women to pursue highly successful careers in these sectors.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service worked with local school children became the stars of a new International Women’s Day video highlighting the range of career options within the fire and rescue service. Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson, said that the film is part of a wider effort to change perceptions around the fire service being a male dominated organisation.
Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service celebrated #BalanceforBetter by hosting an open day for women at a local fire station, and by bringing together women from across the service to talk about how they balance their lives, roles and careers and the benefits that brings in a bid to help inspire the next generation of female firefighters.
And Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) working with Avon & Somerset Police (ASP) pledged its support for International Women’s Day through offering a series of Springboard programmes – designed for women from all backgrounds, ages and stages of their careers to develop and progress throughout the service.
As well as inspirational guest speakers, it enables women from different sectors to support and learn from each other, identify clear, practical and realistic steps that they wish to take at work and home, whilst building the practical skills and confidence to take these steps.
Liz Marchant, Learning & Development Organisational Development Manager said, “The Springboard programme supports women across the Service to reassess where they are in their personal and work lives, and ensure they get the most out of both. These courses are about building confidence, assertiveness and a positive image.”
We’re proud to support our people…
Here at APD, we’re care about gender diversity.
Our workforce is diverse, and we’re proud of that. In particular, we’re passionate about addressing the gender imbalance in the tech and engineering industries. 25% of our employees are women, compared with the national average of 13% across the STEM sectors and 40% of our management team is female - nationally, only 9% of senior tech roles are filled by women.