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What International Women's Day Means in 2014

10/03/2014 14:33 GMT | Updated 10/05/2014 10:59 BST

Firstly, I hope you enjoyed celebrating International Women's Day!

IWD is an important event, held annually on 8 March since the early 1900s, but growing in significance with each year. It is celebrated around the world, with thousands of events taking place to mark the occasion.

Women 1st held one such event in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Thursday 6 March to celebrate and inspire women (and men) from across the tourism and visitor economy industries. Opened by Minister for Equalities, Helen Grant MP, the event looked to the future with discussions about supporting the next generation of leaders and speed-mentoring sessions between women in leadership and aspiring female talent.

However, the event also paid tribute to the past, through the setting of Emmeline's, an atmospheric lounge at InterContinental London Westminster, named after 19th century British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the suffragette movement.

This leads me to consider, what does IWD mean for women and men alike in 2014?

There is no doubt we still have a long way to go for gender equality in the workplace, but I do believe that International Women's Day is a day for celebrating our successes and the progress we continue to make.

Drawing inspiration from the discussions at the event, I believe that IWD in 2014 is about being proactive not reactive about gender equality and career development through creating opportunities, not just taking them.

Don't be humble

Women tend to shy away from their achievements and refer to their wider team's involvement when taking credit for their work. Learn how to say 'I' instead of 'we' when sharing your successes.

It's not about taking credit for other people's work; it's rather about believing in yourself and taking the credit you deserve. Put yourself in the spotlight by using the 'I' word often.

Ask for help

I've seen it time and time again during Q&A sessions, and most recently during the speed mentoring session at our event - women being too afraid to put their hand up and ask for help.

Once you overcome your fear of asking for support, you open up so many windows and doors. The beauty of asking for help is that people are generally happy to offer it. At Women 1st, we wholeheartedly support mentoring and our network has really got behind it too, with many of our Top 100 Club members offering their time to mentor our aspiring leaders and future talent through the Women 1st mentoring programme.

Go on, raise your hand and see what happens!

Challenge the status quo

We are part of such an exciting time in history, with rule books being rewritten for women in and outside of the workplace. Now is the time to step outside of your comfort zone and question how we can change things for the better. Do you think your organisation should have a women's network? Start one. Do you want to have more work/life balance? Ask for more flexible working options. To be a part of change, you need to make change.

It's not just about women

As much as today is about empowering and supporting women, men play an equally important role. As Helen Grant MP so eloquently explained, "When courageous women meet enlightened men, there is little that cannot be achieved."

Simone is the director of Women 1st and a passionate advocate for women in business.

Read more on the Women 1st website...

Women 1st is a not for profit thought leadership campaign which supports female talent and showcases positive female role models. Come to one of our conferences this summer.