What Women Want

Since 1913, March 8th has been the date of International Women’s Day, and the day itself has existed for a few years before that. It’s aim has always been equality for women, historically with voting rights, and continuously for equality in the workplace – including closing that darn gender gap which seems so difficult to keep shut. (FYI- Currently at 14% in the UK, and around 18% in the US.)

And luckily, we live in a time where no one believes in enforcing inequality or sexism at work anymore. Don’t believe me? Just go ask anyone in your office. Should women have the same rights, pay, and opportunities as men do? “Of course!” they’ll say. “What a crazy question!” they’ll laugh nervously. “I have a wife!” they might add, as if that somehow distances them from sexism in any way whatsoever.

So these examples which I’m about to give you, of the 100% real-life gifts which companies decided to hand out for this years International Women’s Day, should absolutely not be seen as sexist. They can’t possibly be. The men are just trying to be nice, stop getting so hysterical about it, are you on your period?

But just for funsies, let’s have a think about the alternatives which companies could have chosen, if they had thought about it a little more deeply, or perhaps chosen to invite a woman or two to the meeting where these IWD celebrations were decided on.

Nail Varnish

Happy International Women’s Day! We thought we would spoil you this year with something just for you… make up! Take twenty minutes later on in the day, maybe after you’re done with your chores, and paint those nails, girls. We’ve got both pink and red, so you can decide if you want to be soft and approachable, or sexy and vampish.

Next Year

“As the life course of women often involves economic inactivity, part-time work, unpaid work, lower wages and an average of five years’ shorter working life than men, they face a significant risk of poverty in old age. In the EU, 18% of women and 12% of men aged 75-plus are at risk of monetary poverty.”

How about we take a look at the old age provision for women? Maybe companies could offer extra incentives towards their pension funds, or provide better semi-retirement options for women in their sixties?

Baking Tins

Oh, maybe I’m being a bit harsh with this one. After all, baking is a fun activity which anyone can take part in. And hey, the company in question did buy tins for the men as well as the women. Oh wait, what’s that on the men’s ones? It’s a card which says “For the woman in your life”. Because imagine if a man tried to do all that stirring and measuring, gosh they would just end up using the tin as a football or something. Someone better tell the 81.5% of professional chefs who are men that they’re in the wrong career.

Next Year

According to a RandstadUSA study, “58 percent of women said the lack of a clear path to leadership roles was one of the key factors that contributes to gender inequality in the workplace. And while mentorship and leadership programs are known to be crucial to one’s career success, just 23 percent of women said they are offered these resources by their current employer.”

This one seems pretty simple. Start a mentor program for women, and establish leadership paths which work to combat macho gender stereotypes of leaders. The Sandberg #MentorHer campaign is a great place to start.

Pink Popcorn

See what they did there? Usually, the snacks at the weekly meeting aren’t dyed any colour at all. We just keep them their usual colours! It’s crazy that women understand which ones to eat at all. If I had a penny for every time a woman has tried to eat the whiteboard eraser instead of the chocolate cake. Seeing as it’s Women’s Day, we’ve tracked down woman popcorn! Hopefully by next year we’ll have those lady Doritos everyone’s looking forward to so much.

Next Year

In the EU, women account for only 7% of board chairs and presidents and 6% of chief executives in the largest companies. More people called David and Steve lead FTSE 500 companies than women and ethnic minorities put together. And yet, studies show that having more women in senior management improves the financial security of companies and makes them manage risk better.

Corporate leaders need to show that they are investing in change. Talks and workshops by successful women are one great way to show female employees that you want to empower them for career success, but actions speak louder than words. If you aren’t satisfied with the idea that the gender disparity in wages looks set to continue until 2059, follow the example of Salesforce CEO Marc Beinoff who spent $3 million last year to fix the pay gap in his company.

A Magnet… Of a woman shopping… With the word ‘Stunning’ on it.

What’s great about this IWD gift is that it can go on the fridge. In the kitchen. Where women live. And it’s got a picture of a woman shopping on it. Which is the only other place women go! Lots of thought was put in here, to ensure that it really ticks all the boxes. Plus it’s got a compliment on it, so the women know we haven’t failed to notice they have great legs in those uncomfortable shoes we like them to wear.

Next Year

A huge roadblock which stops the advancement of gender equality is that women are still seen as the ‘natural’ choice for childrearing duties and other caregiving responsibilities. “Almost every second working woman spends an hour or more caring and educating children or grandchildren, elderly or disabled people during the day, compared with only about a third of working men.”

Using all the time you save not buying sexist magnets, take a look at the parental leave you offer, and consider offering fathers more paid time off for emergency family care and paternity leave. How are your flexible working opportunities, and do they allow for women to balance having kids with advancing in their careers?


It’s not rocket science, and seeing as we’ve been asking for more than 100 years now, it would be great if we didn’t have to keep highlighting this disparity, as well as convincing the world that it exists in the first place.

If you work at a company who gave a tone-deaf International Women’s Day gift this year, say something to HR. If you were in on the meeting where the company decided to buy all the women some pretty flowers and a themed cupcake, own up to it, and do better next year. If you work in a position of authority in your office, take steps to make these statistics better for 2019. And if on top of motivation and policy change, you still want to give out gifts? Lovely! Just don’t dye them pink.

gender pay gap.png


“What’s worse than a Male Chauvinist Pig?”

” …A woman that won’t do what she’s told.” 

That’s an actual joke someone told me, before laughing raucously, in answer to my question “Would you call yourself a feminist?”

Until recently, I’ve never thought much of feminism. Not in a disparaging way, I mean it literally hasn’t crossed my mind that much. I suppose I’ve never noticed that much sexism taking place around me. I like to think that if I had been alive a hundred years ago, I would have been one of the women throwing myself under horses for the rights of women, but in all honesty I’d probably have been obliviously popping out babies chained to the kitchen sink like the majority of that generation.

We can vote, we can work, we have birth control at our fingertips, we can be presidents and prime ministers. (ettes?!) We pretty much have it all. Truthfully, I’ve always sighed at women’s lib organisations like Femen, and asked, what more do we want?

After all, Feminism in its original meaning doesn’t exist any more, does it? We’re not campaigning to be allowed a say in politics, or for control over our own bodies. In the western world at least, life is pretty good for women. We can have our babies and return to work. We can choose not to, and that’s fine too. We can have sex, and we can even enjoy it. Of course there is working woman’s guilt, mummy guilt, stay at home guilt, basically vagina guilt, but if we were really honest we would accept that it’s mainly self judgement, and that the rest of the world doesn’t care. Real issues still exist, the gender pay gap being a massive one, but for the most part we are doing pretty well for a gender who couldn’t even go to university when our grandparents were kids.

So if I’m happy enough to let other women deal with what’s left of inequality in the western world nowadays, what’s brought feminism to my attention lately?

Caitlin Moran (in her fabulous biography how to be a woman which you must all go out and read) discusses the kind of sexism that you don’t notice right away. You might leave a situation thinking, wow-they were a massive douche, and then it actually takes another few hours to sit bolt upright and realise that you missed the word sexist out of that description.

And since that written revelation, I’ve been absolutely bombarded by my own memory, to the point where I can’t believe quite how rife my life has been with hidden sexism. And that’s what I believe we should be fighting against.

Last month, I had the displeasure of spending a few hours in enforced company with an extreme male chauvinist. The kind you can’t help but notice. He had a mini fit when his son picked up a pink buggy to play with, complete with a baby doll inside. “Sorry” I just barely bit back from saying, “I didn’t realise you want your son to grow into the type of man who won’t care for his children or help his wife.” Later that afternoon, midway through an intellectual discussion between him and two other men, I joined the debate. After his look of shock dissipated, he continued talking, making sure to explain every word over two syllables with a condescending look in my direction and an apologetic head tilt for his superior knowledge. When I correctly answered the problem he had posed, he shook his head and basically told me I’d made a lucky guess.

I went home livid. How has he got to mid thirties without someone telling him he has a huge problem? And how can his wife let him behave that way without saying something?

Attitude. That’s what the war should be waged on. The next time someone is rude to you, stop and check the conversation. Is it rudeness, or sexism? More and more I can see that what at first glance was brushed off as ‘they’re an idiot” has a horrible undercurrent of latent sexism that maybe even the speaker isn’t aware of. Sentences like “what does your husband do?” before you’ve even asked about my own work, are not just rude, they are horribly sexist. And they paint a reality. A reality where the female intern gets the coffee while the male one assists the director of the company. A world where you plan an important speech for a meeting and two men stand up to leave before you’ve finished the first sentence. A world where it’s assumed you wont want to join everyone for lunch, so you’re left alone to answer the phones.

All of the above have happened to me in the last five years, and honestly, none of them are serious enough as stand alone events to even mention, without dealing with another sexist label, “the hormonal hysterical woman.” But put them all together and you have a quite frightening picture of a woman’s worth.

It’s easy enough to solve. And bear with me here because this is quite radical. Everyone has to see women…. as people.

That’s right. The same as any other person, male or otherwise.

It’s crazy! It’s insane! It will never work!

But taking every situation I’ve outlined above, I think it may be genius. Instead of my new favourite MCP noting that a dress and heels had joined the convo, if he had just noted that another human was now involved, the only change in conversation would have been a slight body shift to include me in the debate.

If I wasn’t immediately wife, but rather person, then obviously the first question would have been “what do you do?”

“2 interns? Flip a coin, decide between yourselves, take turns for gods sake.”

“Oh, a person is talking, I’d better wait to go powder my nose until they are finished. Perhaps I’ll even listen.”

“Ah, we’re going for lunch, every person is obviously welcome.”

I’m not for one minute downplaying the important work that feminists do for women, and I’m grateful every day for our ‘sister suffragettes’ that made my own freedom and choices possible. But the work needed nowadays is different, and I believe it is mostly down to menfolk to make the changes, although of course women can be just as guilty. To see women simply as other people who coexist side by side, separate but equal. To extend the same courtesy they would to any other person, by simply not being rude. To think about an unpleasant encounter in their day and ask themselves whether they would have made the same choices had a man been standing in front of them, or at the other end of the line.

So do me a favour, and pass on the message to the man in your life. After all, they probably will have stopped reading this by now. It’s written by a woman.