Comment: They say International Women’s Day is great and not enough – both are true


Cris Cloyd is a Public Affairs professional who lives in Northern Ireland with her husband and stepson. She is originally from the United States and has worked in politics and Public Affairs for over eight years. She is currently a UN Women UK CSW67 delegate

A few weeks ago, while driving home from Belfast to Newtownards, my husband and I drove past a car that had veered off the road and crashed into a hedge. The lights were still on. We immediately turned back to help.

We found a woman, in her mid-80s. Let’s call her ‘Mary’. She was trying to dislodge a large branch that had damaged her engine. Thankfully, she was OK.

My husband and I helped her. She is widowed and her only child lives in England. The car was not drivable, and it was freezing outside. We called her insurance company and, as we were waiting to get the car towed, I sat with ‘Mary’. I wanted to bring a sense of normality to a shaken and vulnerable woman, so we talked.

One of my questions was: “What did you used to do for work?” to which she replied, “Well, I got married during the marriage bar, so I had to leave my job. I used to be a statistician before I got married. I rather enjoyed my job. I loved maths.”

She had wanted to continue her career in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and be married. I wonder if she is baffled by the lack of women in the industry today.

Another International Women’s Day has come and gone with the usual mixture of praise for how society has improved for women and gender equality, and criticism for what still needs to be achieved. Both are true.  According to a recent UN report, at the rate we are going, we won’t see full gender equality for 300 years. Long after both ‘Mary’ and I are gone.

I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week. I’m not naïve about the marriage bar and other restrictive laws against women that prevented equal footing in societies. Indeed, in the United States, my mother had less rights than I did growing up.

My generation is privileged to have more autonomy and rights than the generations who fought for them before us.

Despite these advancements, we are witnessing the lack of investment in the support and safety of women that is slowly eroding great strides. Across jurisdictions, childcare provisions and support is neither meeting the mark nor practical. Women have to decide between having a family or being able to work — an informal working ban.

Women still don’t have equal representation in legislatures and other elected offices, and when they are in the public eye, they are subjected to heightened levels of online abuse and misogyny. Violence against women and girls has dominated headlines, and the rate of sexual violence prosecutions are abysmal.

There has been advancement for women across the world but there is also a lack of progress. I want to see a day when people unite and understands that when women do better, economies do better. Gender equality is good for everyone. I have hope.