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Back in the 1990s, I started my banking career on the trading floor of a large global investment bank as a teenager working in a male-dominated industry. As I climbed my way up the corporate ladder becoming a sales trader and barrister with the help of both male and female mentors, I realised that I am a lady who loves education and to work. It is very empowering. I also enjoy helping others to achieve their own success as well as encouraging everyone to help others in order for the diversity gap to close at a faster rate. Women – and other diverse groups including race, LGBT, disability – are absolutely key to 21st-century progress throughout the world, not just in the Square Mile.

The centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 took place on 6 February 2018. This act granted a voice to 8.4 million women over the age of 30, and gave suffrage to 5.6 million more men by lifting barriers of property ownership. Now, more than ever, there is a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity, to motivate and unite friends, colleagues, whole communities – including the Square Mile – to think, act and be gender-inclusive.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been officially recognised by the United Nations since 1975 – and on 8 March it celebrates the 107th anniversary since its inception. It provides an opportunity to empower women while celebrating activists – both male and female – working to attain women’s rights on a global scale. The roots of this day are political, however in some countries, it has become an official holiday, a day for honouring women, much like Mother’s Day.

While these anniversaries serve as a reminder of how far women have come, it should also underscore how much work still lies ahead

The theme for IWD 2018 is #PressforProgress, a nod to the growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support surrounding gender parity and sexism. Inspired by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the aim of the theme is to encourage people to continue the vocal fight for equality.

There are many ways you can take part in IWD – here are just a few of them:

Make a pledge for parity.

This involves going to the IWD website and pledging to help women and girls achieve their ambitions; call for gender-balanced leadership and create flexible cultures.

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Host your own event at your office or members’ club.

It is still not too late. IWD encourages people to host a prominent speaker and create an event of their own.

Support and/or sponsor organisations.

I have launched a women empowerment scholarship to help close the diversity gap within the Square Mile as an example of taking proactive action. This is through my charity The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation, which aims to help empower our next generation of leaders to become a success while also closing the diversity gap.

There is also an International Men’s Day which takes place on 19 November each year and puts the spotlight on men’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality and highlighting positive male role models.

While these anniversaries serve as a reminder of how far women have come, it should also underscore how much work still lies ahead. In April this year, all organisations in the country employing at least 250 people will have to publish the gender pay gap of their company for all four quartiles of their workforce. On paper, women may have all the same judicial rights as men in the UK, but gender pay gap reporting will undoubtedly provide evidence that we are still decades off being able to speak about true parity of the sexes.

There has been progress towards gender equality over the past decade with the help of some great men along the way. However, there is also the gradual awareness of gaping gender disparities. Women account for 60% of university graduates but only 3% of leaders worldwide. We can all help by speaking up about gender equality and speaking out against the injustices women face. That said, we need an actionable plan where both men and women can work together to bring about change. So what are you waiting for? Let us all come together and make positive change starting today.

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