International Women’s Day

International Women's Day is celebrated around the world on March 8th. This day serves as a reminder of the progress made in the fight for gender equality and women’s rights. It is a day to celebrate the achievements of women and to raise awareness of the challenges women continue to face.

The origins of International Women's Day can be traced back to the early 1900s. In 1908, thousands of women in New York City took to the streets to demand better working conditions and the right to vote. The following year, the first National Woman's Day was celebrated in the United States on February 28th. The idea quickly spread, and in 1911, the first International Women's Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland.

It is a day to acknowledge the social, economic, cultural, and political contributions that women have made throughout history. It is also a day to call for action and to advocate for the rights of women around the world.

One of the many important aspects of International Women's Day is the celebration of women's achievements. Women have made significant contributions in various fields, including science, politics, business, and the arts. International Women's Day is a day to celebrate these achievements and to acknowledge the impact that women have had on society.

One of the many fields women have contributed to, is business and entrepreneurship, despite the obstacles they faced in a male-dominated industry, and world. From running small businesses in their communities to leading multinational corporations, female-owned businesses have contributed to global development, the economy and local communities significantly.

We can trace female-owned businesses to ancient civilisations, where women would run market stalls. In medieval Europe, women were active in the trade and commerce of their towns, selling goods and managing their own shops. During the Industrial Revolution, women were crucial to the growth of the textile industry, working in factories and owning small textile businesses.

In the early 20th century, women began to establish themselves as entrepreneurs, founding companies in various fields. One of the most notable examples is Madam C.J. Walker, who was born into poverty in Louisiana in 1867 and became the first female self-made millionaire in America. She built her empire by selling haircare products specifically designed for Black women.

In the mid-20th century, more women started to enter the workforce and pursue careers in business. However, it wasn't until the latter part of the century that women began to break through the glass ceiling and assume leadership roles in major corporations.

One of the earliest female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company was Katharine Graham, who took over as CEO of The Washington Post Company in 1972. She led the company through a period of growth and expansion and was widely respected for her business acumen and leadership skills. Since then, more and more women have risen to leadership positions in business, including some of the world's most successful companies.

Marillyn Hewson served as the CEO of Lockheed Martin from 2013 to 2020, leading the company through a period of innovation and growth in the aerospace and defence industry. Ginni Rometty was the CEO of IBM from 2012 to 2020 and was credited with transforming the company's focus on cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

In addition to CEOs, women have also made significant contributions as board members and directors of major corporations. Susan Desmond-Hellmann served on the board of directors of Facebook and Procter & Gamble and was the first female chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco. Ursula Burns was the CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016 and has since served on the boards of several other major corporations, including ExxonMobil and Nestle.

At the IOEE, we are proud to support various female-run businesses, through qualifications, our mentoring programme and membership. We thought we would highlight just a few of the female-owned businesses which continue to thrive in 2023, which the IOEE proudly support.

North Sky Yurts are an eco-conscious yurt and bell tent hire business based in Leeds. This company started during the Lockdown and has continued to grow ever since. Becca, the co-owner, started the business in Lockdown with her business partner. Becca joined our mentor programme as a mentee, seeking an external perspective. Becca was paired with Anastasia, who is a mentor with the Lloyds banking group. This pairing was beyond successful and we are really happy to hear Becca has been busy every peak season following the start up of her business.

Happy Paws Candle Company was set up by one of our members, Kiera Meurs. This company was created because of Kiera’s cat's breathing issues when certain home products were used. Kiera noticed that her cat became ill around candles, air fresheners and other home fragrances. Kiera researched pet-friendly ingredients and created home fragrances that didn’t affect her cat. She set up a business and gained quite a following on TikTok!

Cheryl-lya set up Souls Compass Consulting with a focus on Community, Collaboration, Caring. Cheryl-Lya has continued to grow and develop alongside her business since we spoke to her in 2022. We were introduced to Cheryl when she joined the mentoring programme, looking for support with maintaining her business and growing her support network.

Of course, we support and are proud to work with each and every business, learning provider and mentee. However, today, we reflect on the struggles women have faced, we learn about ways to boost women up and we go forward empowering women and their supporting their businesses.

Happy International Women's day to each and everyone one of you!