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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Akien

Women in Work - Where did it all start?

International Women’s Day aka IWD, as the cool women call it, is a chance to act, improve opportunities and rebuild post-pandemic workplaces without bias.

The theme this year is #BreakTheBias.

Although, it’s a good time to celebrate the impressive progress women at all levels of the career ladder have made, so often we glance over all the remarkable achievements and sacrifices our female ancestors have made.

The day originated in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City, rallying for voting rights, shorter working hours and better pay. Even before that time, women were making remarkable contributions to the world of work.

The First Woman of Tech

Let’s start with Ada Lovelace. This English mathematician, writer and Lord Byron's only legitimate child is recognised today for her work in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

She worked alongside Charles Babbage's proposed general-purpose computer. She was the first and, in her time, the only person to see the full potential of Babbage's Analytical Engine to run code. Babbage thought it would be capable of solving equations and doing maths, but she saw that it could perform more complex tasks.

She’s credited for writing the world's first computer algorithm in 1842. Thanks to Ada, the number of developers in the UK private sector has risen by 74,000 in the past three years, according to ONS data in 2021.

Photos by Amanda Akien and T S on Unsplash (middle)

Cracking the Enigma Code is one of the nation’s biggest tech success stories. What many don’t know is that 75% of World War Two’s code-breaking operators were women. It’s estimated that Bletchley Park was home to 8,000 women. Whilst few females from that era were recognised as cryptanalysts, Bletchley Park’s story still currently gains momentum, thanks to today’s tech heroines such as software engineer Sue Black.

Wartime Women in Work

During World War One, women worked so that men could enter the Armed Forces. The war created new jobs for women, and factories became the largest employer of women by 1918. They were also employed in ‘male’ roles, such as bus conductors, bank clerks, window cleaners, gas fitters, and even the Fire Services!

When World War Two arrived, recruitment drives and campaigns for women began again. In 1941, every woman in Britain aged between 18 and 60 had to register for work. After interviews, they could choose from a range of jobs. Legislation in 1941 made the conscription of women into the workplace legal. Even the Queen - then Princess Elizabeth - trained as a driver and a mechanic. It was women who once again enabled the country to keep on running!

As the service sector emerged and offices replaced factories, more women have entered the corporate world, or set up their own businesses. It has been far from plain sailing. Despite these struggles, women have managed to achieve plenty of successes in their careers, becoming Fortune 500 CEOs and even travelling to space!

Find out more about the remarkable life of

This IWD though, there is another dimension. With war raging in Europe after seven decades of peace, it is a time to acknowledge the courage, intellect and determination of the array of remarkable women in key roles in all aspects of this conflict.

Strong Women of War

The 2022 Russian Invasion of the Ukraine has highlighted the plight of women, both as mothers and fighters. From the women fleeing the violence in the country with their children, as husbands, brothers and fathers stay behind to defend their country, to those on the front lines, or risking their lives to bring us stories on the ground as journalists. Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

Women also make up around 10 percent of the Ukrainian armed forces, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Those who are serving in combat positions won that right, officially, only in 2016.

There are many women playing critical roles in this crisis. And, in Russia there are also brave women protesting against the war in the Ukraine.

Female Qualities

The infamous John Gray book of the early 90s 'Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus' highlighted the psychological differences between the sexes. And, it is evident that there are fundamental differences between males and females, that can often be seen in the workplace.

Female strengths include:

  • Different perspectives: This can help with creativity and innovation, and help businesses identify new opportunities.

  • Collaboration: Can help improve team processes and boost group collaboration.

  • Empathy: There is ample research on women’s empathetic nature, including the ability to understand someone else’s feelings.

  • Communication: Research shows that women have stronger skills in reading non-verbal cues and can therefore communicate better.

  • Multi-tasking: It’s not a myth - women are better at multi-tasking, according to a 2013 study in the journal BMC Psychology.

Women - where are we at?

Findings from Let’s Get Real About Equality: When Women Thrive 2020 Global Report, showed that hiring and promotion rates for women had at last risen to levels comparable to men. But of course there is still some way to go.

However, this IWD, let us take time to look back at the history of women who paved the way for us to shine.

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