What does International Women’s Day mean to the High-Rise team?

Here at High-Rise, we’re proud of our strong female leadership and our team full of talented women. With International Women’s Day 2021 upon us, we asked the team to share their thoughts.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you in 2021?

Helen Furnivall, High-Rise’s Managing Director: “I’m not a big fan of awareness days in general, but I’ll make an exception for International Women’s Day. Mainly because I think we are in danger of going backwards in terms of women getting a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.

“I know so many smart women running social enterprises and charities. They are making a tangible difference in their communities. While that’s fantastic, I also think more women – especially young women – need to get involved in politics. That way we can really have influence and change things for the better.” 

Account Manager, Laura Thomas added: “To me, it’s about empowerment; knowing that, thanks to the work of people before me, I can do or be anything I put my mind to.

“However, I think it’s also about reflection on what we have left to achieve – especially around the stigma that comes with gender. If a woman is loud in a meeting then she’s bossy, if a man is loud in a meeting then he’s the boss. These associations – and more – are the things that we now need to overcome.”

Trainee Account Executive, Vicki Phillips: “International Women’s Day is an opportunity to look back on history, through the lens of women – a viewpoint often overlooked. It is a day to celebrate inspirational, powerful women and empower the younger generation. It’s a reminder of the progress that we have made, whilst also providing an opportunity to consider the changes that are still needed.”

High-Rise’s graphic designer, Lisa Skadinis: “There will be recognition of many wonderful, inspiring women today. Women that we all will recognise of every creed, colour and nationality. But let’s think about the women who aren’t necessarily famous; those who have supported us, have been our mentors, our rock and helped us be where we are today.

“It’s about women who give their daughters the strength, the confidence and the chance to fly (Thank you Mum).”

What needs to change in order to achieve gender equality?

Helen: “The first thing that needs to change is the make-up of the Cabinet which is dominated by white, middle-aged men. A more diverse Cabinet would mean better decisions were being made for the country as a whole. Last week’s budget with its lack of thinking on social care is a good example of that. Some of the choices that are being made for the country lately really show a lack of women in the room.”

Laura: “Sadly, in some countries, gender inequality still affects women’s basic needs such as health, education, and employment. Here, there is still a long way to go and I don’t think we are doing nearly enough to help these situations. We aren’t even covering the issue enough in the media or our day-to-day conversations!

“In this country, I believe the gender pay gap to be a very pressing issue. One case that drew my attention to this was that of BBC journalist Samira Ahmed in 2019. She had never been paid more than £465 per episode for her work presenting Newswatch, whilst her male colleague Jeremy Vine was paid £3,000 an episode,.

“This country has largely tackled issues relating to basic needs. But, unconscious biases still exist which irrationally favour men.”

Vicki: “Talk to women. Listen to women. 

“The voices of women, from all walks of life, need to be heard. If women are not present at the table where decisions are made, how can this represent their wants or needs? If women of only one type –  white, middle class, heterosexual, able-bodied – are present, how does this represent ALL women? Women need to be present, but this also requires a diversification of women.”  

Which women inspire you? 

Helen: “I’m going to mention two women here – my 21-year-old daughter, Anna, and her best friend Liv.

“They are both amazing young women and when they can, they hang out and dance together. Liv works at Contact Theatre and is slowly changing the world, as you can tell from this Postcards to the Future podcast she recorded recently. Anna is a drama student at Italia Conti but she is always thinking of new ideas and projects, and is currently really getting into film-making. Young women like this are amazing, and decision makers need to listen to them more.”

Laura: “As well as my mum and my younger sister, I’m fortunate enough to have worked alongside so many inspirational women of all ages and backgrounds. Women who – knowingly or not – have grown my confidence and made me feel sure of myself in a way I didn’t think was possible in high school.

“I found myself in a tricky spot last year, suddenly freelancing due to the coronavirus pandemic. The amount of female support I experienced humbled me. Female ex-colleagues, female ex-clients, women who I’d met at a networking event, women who I’d never met. So many reached out and did all they could to help. For this reason, I’m not going to name just one person. Women, and the power of us when we come together, inspire me.”

Vicki: “I have lots of women in my life who continue to inspire me every day, as they battle through sexism and fight for gender equality.  I would also like to mention Jamilla Jamil.

“Any woman who is unapologetically honest about their struggles is inspirational to me. Having struggled with eating disorders and mental illness, she has launched a global social movement and a successful podcast. She has used her vulnerabilities and turned them into strengths to help support others. She is a woman who repeatedly speaks out against the patriarchy and she helps others  in the process.” 

Lisa: “Women who have made it despite great adversity. Women who say, ‘we don’t have to do it the way it’s always been done’. Women who are happy to see other women succeed by offering their wisdom and advice, without expecting anything in return.”

A recommendation of resource that helps you understand feminism

Helen: “I read and re-read anything by Patti Smith, especially Just Kids. They are my go-to books. Her writing is beautiful, strong and kind. There’s also the determination in all her writing and songs ,and the way she’s lived her life to refuse to conform to stereotypes and to trust her instincts. I think we could all learn from that.”

Laura: “As a Literature student, a lot of what I’ve learned about feminism has come from its societal reflection in fiction writing. I wrote my dissertation around the ‘madness’ of women in literature during the 19th century. From Jane Eyre and its portrayal of the madwoman in the attic in 1847, to Charlotte Gilman Perkins’ Yellow Wallpaper in 1892.

“I still find that books are my go-to resource. I would definitely recommend Becoming by Michelle Obama, and Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given.”

Vicki: “It’s hard for me to think of one resource that has helped me discover the importance of feminism. Learning about the struggles of others has encouraged me to read and acknowledge the everyday sexism that women are subject to. 

“For anyone wanting to understand more about feminism, sexism and gender equality, I would recommend ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies’ by Scarlett Curtis. This curated book of essays offers an extensive range of perspectives on what, why and how feminism is important to each woman included.”