Reflections on International Women’s Day

Every year around Mother’s Day my mum comes into town and we have a day out, just us. It’s one of my favourite annual rituals.

This year we decided to go to the Bank of England museum. My mum worked at the Bank of England for over 20 years. She started at the age of 17 when they employed three girls from council estates as a “social experiment” in the late 1970s. I would watch her get ready for work as a child, impossibly glamorous in her power-suits and seemingly always on her way somewhere exciting.

As we perused vintage recruitment advertisements aimed at women, she explained that she and her female colleagues were repeatedly harassed, never promoted, and expected to train the men, who would be systematically promoted above them. Until one woman raised a dispute about this which was taken as far as the European Court. Overnight, 500 female Bank of England staff, my mum included, received raises.

As is usually the case when visiting museums, I was enraged by the elitist, sexist, racist and reactive past behaviours on display, but not surprised, as I’m uncertain the present has improved. The marginally more inclusive updates of recent years are footnotes in a shameful history.

As we continued our walk around the City of London, on the day before IWD24, we saw flags flying in support of Free Palestine and against genocide, as peaceful protest becomes criminalised in the UK by the current government. We encountered a group of women speaking out about their recent experiences of misogyny at work, in Paternoster Square. Gender, race, class, disability and LGBTQ+ pay gaps remain vast. We noticed a sign in Smithfield Meat Market, about its gruesome history and how in the early nineteenth century, it hosted a popular “wife sale” event.

There were reminders everywhere that International Women’s Day must continue to be a protest not a corporate celebration. Progress is slow. Painfully so. Generally far too late arriving. But change can happen when brave people are willing to speak truth to power against injustices of all sizes.

ReflectivE3 offers inclusive counselling with an intersectional approach, taking account of what it's like to live in the world as it is. Get in touch to find out more about how it can support you.

© Ellie Rowland-Callanan

powered by WebHealer