• Laura Sanderson

Let’s keep shouting about equality this International Women’s Day

Written as a guest blog for NABS for International Women's Day 2021 by Laura Sanderson, VP of Bloom North and Sales Director at Teads Manchester



As I sat down to write this blog, I put on a Spotify playlist ‘Walking Back to Happiness’. It felt the perfect soundtrack to a Sunday evening on the back of a week which gave us an announcement on the route out of lockdown and an ounce of renewed hope.

Whilst the soundtrack was for some background noise, the first song played on shuffle was ‘You Don’t Own Me’ sung by Lesley Gore. How funny I thought, I love this song, but then I really listened.

The song is a defiant clapback against powerlessness. A clear refusal to be objectified, oppressed and owned be that in a relationship, at work or as a member of society.

Song writer David Madara says the message of "You Don't Own Me" is ultimately about empathy.”. Listen to what people have to say; be kind and loving to the people you come into contact with," he says. "I think 'You Don't Own Me' says that. It says, 'Treat people fairly.' " (Neda Ulaby, NPR).

In 2012, Gore endorsed a Public Service Announcement featuring women and girls lip-synching to the song and encouraging women to vote to support the issues of pay equality, reproductive choice and health, and marriage equality.

Most recently the song was picked up as an anthem for the #MeToo movement, for women and people everywhere who experienced sexual assault or harassment. Building upon the global #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, NABS helped establish the timeTo Code to address the problem of sexual harassment in the advertising and marketing industry. Supporting all sexualities, ages and genders, and across the industry - agencies, marketers and media-owners. An acknowledgement that, by taking action together, the industry will be better placed to make positive change to stamp out sexual harassment.

What is especially haunting about an anthem released 58 years ago, is how relevant it still is today.

There have been positive shifts in attitudes. The last 12 months have seen some key defining moments for women. Governments across the world worked to respond to COVID-19, with research suggesting that in countries where women lead, the responses were quicker, more effective and stronger. Kamala Harris broke the political glass ceiling of the United States; free period products are now being provided at schools in New Zealand to tackle period poverty and The Scottish parliament voted unanimously in favour of the Period Products bill in November, making Scotland the first country to allow free and universal access to menstrual products.

Speaking in our community recently I heard someone state and ask, “I am all for women’s lib, but why do you have to keep shouting about it?”.

It’s simple, there is still much more to do. Patriarchy still manifests in our society, in our workplaces and maybe even in our homes.

The gender pay gap still exists in the UK, the average female employee works the first two months of the year for free when you compare their salary to their male counterparts. WACL had to campaign this year to keep the gender pay gap on the government’s agenda, which was reinstated last week as a result (thankfully!).

Defined gender roles and societal expectations mean women are facing new or increased stressors at work and in life as a result of the COVID-19 crises, having an understanding of intersectionality means this could be different for every woman depending on their privilege and the discrimination they may encounter.

The momentum of work during the pandemic, the increased responsibility of managing a household, childcare responsibilities, and all with an undercurrent of fear of furlough or job loss (HMRC data shows women are more likely than men to be furloughed) have all added to the challenges women face every day.

What does it mean to stand silently by while members of our community are suffering (knowingly or not)? For me, silence is consent. So, what can we do?

This year’s official International Women’s Day theme (2021) is #ChooseToChallenge is a call-to-action to challenge the status quo by raising awareness against bias, celebrating women's achievement, and taking action for equality.

Back to the words of David Madara, let’s make empathy a priority. The ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place.

“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.” - IWD

Show your support of your colleagues, your friends, and family. Speak up for them if they cannot for themselves. Celebrate the women in your life.

We can involve men in feminism without alienating them, involve your male colleagues and share how they can become better allies to women. Encourage them to question their views, offer suggestions for championing women in the business, and suggest ways to tackle ingrained sexism.

As a young woman in the advertising industry, I have relied on support organisations such as NABS for coaching, mentorship, training, and even legal advice. I am very grateful to have access to NABS, and for free.

We are so fortunate to have communities such as NABS and Bloom North to lean on. I would encourage anyone to open up and join in on industry events, reach out for advice and support, and to find like-minded people.

If you are passionate about driving meaningful change in our industry, are committed to empowering women and want to create a positive and inclusive industry, then come and be part of Bloom North. Everyone is welcome.


And as we collaborate with NABS to make positive change in our communities, we can look forward to a fairer society as a collective force.



The next Bloom North workshop event is an online session titled ‘Boosting Resilience’ delivered by 4and20 million, designed to change perspective, and boost personal resilience in the workplace. The event is sponsored by Hearst and will be held on Wednesday 24th March 2021 at 1pm. To find out more and get tickets visit Eventbrite.

For more information, visit www.bloomnorth.org.

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Bloom North is a professional network of women in the communications sector on a mission to ensure women have equal opportunity in the communications industry, by harnessing the power of their real voices. We strive to spearhead industry change, futureproof women’s careers and pay it forward for the next generation.


Bloom North is proud to be affiliated with NABS. Being each other’s cheerleaders and pulling each other up everyday matters.

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