Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women’s Day was held over 100 years ago in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.
All around the world, IWD represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.
This years theme is Make It Happen, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women.
Throughout this week leading up to IWD, we will be featuring some of our inspiring female speakers on our GSABlog.
Today we feature Dr. Samantha Nutt, Humanitarian, Founder of War Child & Bestselling Author.
What does ‘Making it Happen’ mean to you and how have you implemented it in your career to date?
It means having an idea, or a vision for something new or different, and seeing it through. In my own case, it was believing that when it came to international aid and development it was possible to do things differently – to not keep on making the same mistakes and to go beyond the usual “feel good” interventions that rarely change the status quo over the long term. You don’t have to know where you’re going to end up, ultimately. And you can’t control for every outcome or have a contingency for every disappointment. You just have to get up every day and be willing to try, and remain undeterred in the face of failure. A sense of humour helps, and surrounding yourself with the right people helps even more.
Gender-specific challenges you’ve faced in your chosen career?
Well, when I started, anything to do with war (and even the emergency aid sector) was almost entirely the domain of men. Foreign policy, whether you’re talking about those who make it or those who criticize it, is also entirely dominated by men. Even now, when I read foreign policy articles in print or online, or watch a Munk Debate, I groan at the way in which these things overwhelmingly perpetuate a Western, male perspective. Our sector needs a greater diversity of voices. The only effective way I know of to tackle this, as a woman, is to keep on writing and speaking publicly, and encouraging other women to do the same. And mocking the patriarchy. There are few things I find more delightful than mocking the patriarchy.
Woman you’d like to thank but never had the chance?
Well, if they are living, I make a point of thanking them, or I’d be a terrible human being. If I could travel back in time though I’d thank Dorothy Parker and Gertrude Stein and all the other brassy dames with a quit wit, perfectly formed wrinkles and strong opinions.
What advice would you give a young female in your industry today?
Run quickly, but never in a straight line because that’s where it gets interesting.
Who was your female role model & why/how did they empower you?
I have had countless female role models; I could fill an entire book describing them all. Female teachers who didn’t believe that “good girls” were quiet and who embraced my disruptive tendencies in their classrooms, encouraging me to make it more strategic and effective. My mother, my sister and my aunts of various generations who are strong and funny and relentless. My girlfriends in high school who never sought anyone’s approval for anything. And the most courageous, defiant, tenacious women you will ever meet in war zones overseas, some of whom I wrote about in Damned Nations.
What change in societies approach to gender equality are you most proud of?
We are getting better, overall, at not discriminating on the basis of gender. Nevertheless, the lack of women in senior executive positions, the disparity in pay between men and women across most sectors, the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership positions and on corporate boards, the abhorrent sexism and abuse directed asymmetrically at women online – all of these point to the huge, gaping holes that still exist when it comes to true gender equality. Being proud would be premature.
What is the biggest issue facing women in your industry today?
In war zones, it is security. Acts of violence against humanitarian workers are increasing around the world. Those who need aid programs are primarily women, children and the elderly. Without women in those key roles our aid approaches will be less effective.
For more on Dr. Nutt and how she can inspire your audience check out her Speaker Profile.
Other Speakers featured in our Hot Topics: International Women’s Day Include: