On International Women’s Day 2018, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of the inspiring women that have paved the way for other women to make their mark on the world and be where we are today. This year marks the 100th year of the vote for women, thanks to the Suffragettes, which is truly amazing and wonderful.

But whilst things have come a long way, equality does not yet truly exist. I use the word yet with hope that one day it will.

However, at the moment, everyday sexism is so ingrained in today’s society that many people don’t realise that it still exists, whilst others choose to ignore the fact. It’s in the taxi driver that informs you where the shops are because as a woman “shopping is all that you’re interested in”, it’s in the surprise on people’s faces and the fact that you’re “being difficult” when you say that you don’t want to take your husband’s surname in marriage, it’s in every restaurant where the server gives your bill to the man you’re sat with, it’s in the misconceptions around feminism and the assumption that you’re a “man hater” if you’re a feminist, and it’s within too many infuriating conversations that you overhear as a commuter.

To add to this, key issues still prevail such as the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling in the world of work, the controversy around contraception, abortion and the power women have over their own bodies, women being judged by appearance over ability, and the constant battle against stereotypical gender roles and societal expectations – especially around motherhood and the assumption that women can’t be both a good career woman and mother. These are just a few prevalent issues in today’s society (and pet hates of mine!) which clearly highlight that gender equality has not yet been achieved. Whilst I don’t want to dwell on the negatives on such a positive day for women across the world, I do want to highlight that there is still work to be done in order to achieve gender equality.

To the women of today; the feminists standing for equality, the girl bosses going after goals and ambitions, the career women shaping the future of business, the mothers, sisters, aunties and grandmothers bringing up our next generations, female students gaining knowledge and expertise in every area you can imagine and female graduates going out into the world with big ambitions. To women from all generations, backgrounds, locations and ethnicities across the world. Each and every one of you have the power and the ability to make a positive difference to the world that we live in.

So on International Women’s Day and every other day of your life, I urge you to embrace yourself as a woman, be proud of being a woman (and a feminist if you identify as one!), don’t shrink into the space you occupy, stand up, speak up and go after your aims and ambitions. I also urge you to support, encourage and lift up other women. Don’t view each other as competition – this is something that I commonly see, but never understand. And finally, don’t allow yourself to be categorised, sidelined or put into anybody else’s small box of oppressive ideas. You owe it to yourself and to all the women who have paved the way before us.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Here’s to all of the inspiring women out there! To my mum and my sister, thank you for inspiring me to be the best version of myself everyday.

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What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

L.