Happy International Women’s Day! С международным женским днём!

Today provides a great opportunity to publicise some articles published over recent days highlighting both the advances made by women and examining some of the factors that still hold women back in the world.

Soviet-era women's day poster

First, women in higher education:

  • The Guardian’s Higher Education Network is discussing  women in higher education who have inspired you on the website and on LinkedIn: what a great topic! The discussions are still open so please add your own contributions;
  • Thumbs up to my employer, the University of Oxford, for its press release today showcasing videos with various women working at Oxford. One of the videos features Dr Alice Prochaska, my former boss at Somerville College, which itself was founded to give women the opportunity to undertake higher education at a time when they were excluded from membership of the University;
  • On a less positive note, the Huffington Post discusses the lack of senior women across the UK higher education sector;
  • Michelle Gander of the Open University – a fellow graduate of the MBA in Higher Education Management) blogs about higher education, women and careers and recently published some interesting statistics about gender diversity in senior roles.

Looking at the situation of women more generally, I’d recommend the following:

  • Polly Toynbee, one of my favourite Guardian journalists, laments the persistent lack of equality for women in the UK. The title ‘Calm down, dear’ comes from something the prime minister David Cameron said to a woman MP once, which did not make him popular amongst his female colleagues or voters;
  • The struggle for gender equality in Tajikistan is stymied by persistently high levels of poverty. Eurasia Net reports, for example, on how poverty is encouraging early marriages, which frequently has negative implications for women;
  • A short report about Kyrgyzstan’s president Almazbek Atambayev who has congratulated women in the country – whilst also, in an honest assessment, acknowledging their “economic hardship”.
How women's day has gone from being about "demonstrations and meetings" to "flowers and presents" (c) Rian.ru

So a mixed picture for a day when we celebrate women: much to applaud, but still much work to be done.

I’ll leave you with the words of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev who sent his wishes for 8 March whilst launching Mother’s Day as a new holiday in the country (interestingly, Kazakhstan still maintains a Soviet-era award system for women who have multiple children. Not sure what that says about anything but just wanted to note it here):

I heartily wish all women of Kazakhstan to be tough on the one hand and tender on the other. Family is the basis of the state and it rests on your hands as you bring up our children to make them intelligent patriots and knowledgeable people – it is all in the hands of women as well. The public policy is also in the hands of women and the decision-making also comes from you, so the country can not do without you. Therefore, you must be healthy and happy.

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