Happy International Women’s Day 2017

March 8th is International Women’s Day. Each year there is a different theme, and this year the theme is calling for gender-balanced leadership, to respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. So it was a great privilege on the the eve of International Women’s Day 2016 to have been elected as the first female Black and Minority Ethnic Chair of Lewisham’s Labour Group.

Lewisham Labour has a proud history of supporting Women in leadership roles. There is a great commitment to encouraging women from diverse backgrounds to stand for officer roles within their branches, and constituency, as well as going forward to become elected Councillors and MP’s. Lewisham can boast four women MPs in Dame Joan Ruddock and Bridget Prentice, who have and will receive the Freedom of the borough in 2016, and have handed over the baton to Heidi Alexander MP and Vicky Foxcroft MP.

As a Labour Group we strive to have gender balance in our leadership, however we still have some way to go. I know they say that Rome was not built in a day, but as a group we all have a responsibility to encourage women to stand for positions, support them, and nurture leadership. The aims of this 2017 International Women’s Day are justly right to call on us to ‘Be Bold for Change’. We all need to be bold for change so that we can address the gender balance in leadership and all  roles and positions, in doing so it allows us to respect and value the difference women bring to  all these roles, and in turn this will inspire others.

It is sometimes said the men apply for a job or role when they meet only 60% of the qualifications or criteria, but women apply only if they meet 90% of them. This can only be overcome by encouraging women to put themselves forward, to cast aside their doubts, and to know that they can do so with the support of their Labour colleagues.

I find myself extremely fortunate to be part of Lewisham Labour Group and Lewisham Labour Constituency Party where women are encouraged and supported. I know that my progress is a result of that encouragement and support from both men and women within the party, and fellow Councillors. So with that in mind, I believe we should all join in to help forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world that this International Women’s Day promotes. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186. That’s far too long, this why we have to be ‘Bold for Change’ and we have to be bold now.

I believe in leading by example, so if my example encourages other women to put themselves forward to help and serve their Branch, their Ward, their Constituency, their Borough, then the support I have received would have been shared with those women also.

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