International Women’s Day

8 March, 2021 9:01 am

International Women’s Day is an annual celebration of the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women.

On 8 March each year, people come together across the globe to rally for women’s equality through widespread activities. 

Why is this day important?

Although the world has made significant progress, no country has yet achieved gender equality. 

According to the United Nations, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. As of 2019, less than 25% of parliamentarians were women. Additionally, one in three women experience gender-based violence. 

This day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the progress made, raise awareness of women’s equality and celebrate acts of courageous women who’ve made an imprint on our history and communities.

Clearly, there is much more to be done in the fight for gender equality, so we want to strive to  make a positive difference for women. 


This year’s official theme, #ChooseToChallenge, encourages people to speak out against gender bias and inequality. From challenge comes change, so by embodying this theme, we can help create an inclusive world.

The United Nations has also announced the theme ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World. The current pandemic has demonstrated how effectively women leaders and women’s organisations have been leading the Covid-19 response through their skills, knowledge and networks. This theme focuses on the recent acceptance that women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table.

How are we celebrating International Women’s Day?

On 8 March, we’re hosting a Choose to Challenge call from 4pm to 5pm to share ideas about how to challenge injustices. We will be discussing gender equality, access to education, period poverty or any other issue. 

Everyone is welcome to join. Fill in this form by 3pm on 8 March and we’ll send you a link.

Women in leadership

We spoke with some of our women leaders at college to find out their thoughts on International Women’s Day.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Stephanie Keedy, Programme Manager for Cultural, Contemporary and Heritage Studies at Harrogate College: “International Women’s Day makes me think about how far women have come, even just in my lifetime. There has been so much positive change and progression.”

Anna Crossland, Deputy Head of Department, Curriculum and Quality at Harrogate College: “International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate how many opportunities women now have within the workplace, along with how efficient we have become in multitasking, juggling workplace commitments and family.”

What does the 2021 theme #ChooseToChallenge mean for you in your work life?

Stephanie: “The #ChooseToChallenge means that we should always challenge and question and we have a right to do so.”

Anna: “#ChooseToChallenge is my everyday mantra! I am constantly striving to achieve and thrive on challenges. When I first came into the FE sector I had two young children alongside a full-time teaching post and a degree to complete. 

Moving to now, I am still studying alongside my current role completing a BA in Business and Leadership. The role I am currently in is different every day with different challenges arising, however that is what keeps it interesting and exciting, I don’t think I could cope without a main professional focus.”

Will you/your department be doing anything to celebrate?

Stephanie: “My department, learners included, are collecting our brand new and lightly used bras, which we will be donating to I Support The Girls. This charity works tirelessly to raise money to help women and children who are fleeing the sex slave trade to start a new life. Bras are sought-after in underdeveloped countries, so this is an ideal opportunity to clear out and donate to a fantastic cause.”

Anna: “We are working with the Student Life team to engage  students in the opportunities for women in the STEM area, with clips and activities to complete.”

Why did you choose the career that you are in?

Stephanie: “I always wanted to be a hairdresser and started a three year college course in hairdressing and beauty therapy. My fantastic time at college inspired me to teach the subject;  I have been teaching beauty therapy for a long time and I never tire of it.”

Anna: “I chose my career because I like to work in an area where I know I can have a positive impact. I find working with young people very interesting. It is so satisfying when you meet them later in life and they’re happy and content in the career path that they have chosen, knowing that you had a positive input into their chosen pathway.”

Why did you decide to work within the education sector?

Stephanie: “I enjoy working with learners of all ages. I will never get bored of getting to know learners and seeing them progress. No two days are ever the same.”

Anna: “To be part of the learner journey when students are at such a pinnacle point in the decision phase is very gratifying.”

What does Harrogate College/your department do to overcome gender stereotypes?

Stephanie: “In my department, we are inclusive of all genders. We do have some male hairdressing and barbering learners and always recruit a mixed group in media makeup.”

Anna: “All subject areas are open for all genders, we are not gender specific. Students are enrolled onto courses that match their skill set and area of interest – gender does not come into it.”

In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up leadership roles?

Stephanie: “As more women are successful in management positions, the balance will shift in the right direction. We must do more to encourage women into these roles, but the opportunities must be made available and more accessible.”

Anna: “It is important for more women to take up leadership roles so that young people have more role models. I don’t believe that gender should have anything to do with the decision to take up this type of role, it should go on suitability and the ability to carry out the role effectively.”

What more do you think can be done to encourage more women into leadership roles?

Stephanie: “We must make the pathway clear for the younger generation to see what opportunities they could achieve. I have a daughter myself and want to see her achieve her full potential.”

Anna: “Advice and guidance from a very early age is important. Now that more workplaces are providing a flexible approach, this opens up more opportunities for women that also have commitments at home. This should be promoted to ensure that women know that the support is there and you can do both.”

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Stephanie: “Be a little bit kind to yourself. Women wear a lot of hats and juggle a lot, so give yourself a break, especially when things haven’t gone so well and start again tomorrow.”

Anna: “I would like to say to women that it is never too late to learn or adapt your pathway. There are so many opportunities there that you can have the work-life balance and be successful. I started my studies after having my first child using my role as a mother as my main motivator to be a role model to my daughter.”

Take a look at the International Women’s Day resources here and the Leeds City College Empowering Women resources here.