8 brilliant women share what needs to change for there to be equity for women

From fighting for equal pay to the welfare of women and girls, Stylist asks eight brilliant women what needs to change for there to be equity for women?

Another year, another International Women’s Day – but how much has truly changed?

While the day aims to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, it also serves as a reminder that gender equality and women’s rights still have a long way to go – and this year is no different.

This year, the 2023 theme for International Women’s Day is all about equality and equity, with the #EmbraceEquity campaign.

The UN has stated that this theme is all about getting the world talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough.

While equality is always the goal, the UN states that “equity is the means to get there” – but how do we get to the stage of achieving equity on the road to equality?

We asked eight women what they feel needs to change for there to be equity for women and why it’s important to celebrate our achievements while continuing to strive for change.

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  • Alexandra Wood, 42, founder ofSavile Row bespoke tailoring company Alexandra Wood

    Alexandra Wood

    “As a woman raising young children at the same time as growing a business, I’ve found it incredibly tough over the years. This is something that needs to improve – after all, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. 

    “There needs to be more support for women wishing to start their own businesses who also want children and are able to have that equal balance and support to achieve our goals and go for what we want, as we should.”

    Find out more about Alexandra Wood here

  • Jennifer Cairns, 50, author and self-empowerment speaker

    Jennifer Cairns

    “I know first-hand from my own experiences that the biggest thing we need to do is change the internal conversation. We need to flip that internal switch so that we fully embrace all of who we are – including any neurodivergence, chronic illness, condition or other disability. Only when we embrace and love ourselves fully will we have the confidence to go out and gain the skills we need, acquire the knowledge we’re missing or even ask for the support we require to build and grow.”

    Find out more about Jennifer Cairns here

  • Caroline Marshall, 34, founder of Upsource

    Caroline Marshall

    “In the UK, the childcare system needs reform so it is accessible to all who want to work, who need to contribute financially and support the economy.

    “I felt so shocked and unprepared when I had my first child in 2018 with the costs of childcare versus what I earned (my London salary just covered it and I was left with 0 or minus each month). That cost hugely contributed to the mental struggle and demands of both needing to work full-time and adapt to being a new mum.

    “I see this happen with every woman I know who has had children but wants to keep her career intact, and it’s not something we can educate individuals on. We are taught so well at school now that women can pursue any career we want and that, from my own experience at least, we are so busy achieving that we don’t want to find out motherhood may hugely impact the careers we have worked hard for. We can’t be equal in the workplace or at home without respecting motherhood and parenting.”

    Find out more about Upsource here

  • Katie McNamara, 27, creator and host of Single Sounds podcast

    Katie McNamara

    “Over the last decade, I believe progress has been made in some areas, such as employment and education opportunities for women, and this has been felt by me and my peers. However, in other areas, progress has felt stagnant, particularly in reference to the welfare and safety of women.

    “The welfare and safety of women and girls in the UK is still something that deeply concerns me and I haven’t seen much improvement in the last decade at a personal level. It is still almost a daily occurrence that I feel threatened and unsafe when walking around my local neighbourhood in London. In fact, I was followed home two weeks ago by a stranger from the station who was calling after me trying to get my attention. It’s something that definitely needs to change and we must all work towards changing for the betterment and safety of women and girls.”

    Find out more about the Single Sounds podcast here

  • Leanne Mair, 38, founder and CEO of strategic management consultancy Benefactum Consulting

    Leanne Mair

    “While I think we’ve made progress over the years, we’re still at the beginning of our journey with intersectionality being a key area we need to develop. We are now beginning to see the experiences of Black women and women of colour finally being recognised and playing more of a role in corporate strategy and culture and this is something we need to continue to build on. If we want equity, it needs to begin with equity among us all.”

    Find out more about Leanne Mair here

  • Katie Mantwa George, 39, founder of Being Human Well

    Katie Mantwa George

    “Rather than blaming various groups for the challenges women face with equity, we need to focus on conversations that allow all parties to be included. Women can not work on the challenges faced alone. 

    “This is needed for productive dialogue and solution building.When empathy is practised in any situation, whether it’s at work or home, you build trust, avoid power struggles and see others as fellow humans. Actively imagining or asking the right questions and listening carefully to the challenges of women will help others to make plans that actually work, rather than plans that men (or others) think may work. Empathy increases awareness of marginalised groups such as women enabling stronger relationships across groups. This builds a strong foundation for equity cultivation that is built on a genuine desire to see and create change versus a forced or prescriptive approach to seeking fair and impartial environments that allow everyone to flourish.”

    Find out more about Being Human Well here

  • Angela Karanja, 47, psychologist and founder of Raising Remarkable Teenagers

    Angela Karanja

    “We’ve seen great changes over the years, from better resources, opportunities and representation for women – but the nasty residue of a deeply ingrained patriarchal society still remains at the heart of it. To achieve equity we have to keep keeping on. We have to (and not just women) chip away when patriarchy rears its ugly head if we want to have equality and equity at the forefront.”

    Find out more about Raising Remarkable Teenagers here

  • Becky Colwell, 54, sales coach

    Becky Colwell

    “There is still so much more that could be done. To get equal pay we need to be seen as equal by the decision-makers, and our work seen as equal. It seems to me though that women, quite rightly, no longer want to succeed by being more like their male counterparts. Rather, they want to succeed whether or not they display the characteristics that were once considered dominant.

    “Now we have equality of rights when all things are equal – it’s time to be looking at equal value, and that relies on almost everyone in society to agree on what is equal value.”

    Find out more about Becky Colwell here

Images: Kirsty Mackenzie; courtesy of contributors

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