International Women's Day (IWD) is an essential, incredible thing. As I hope anyone reading this will know, it's one day of the year that inspires all sorts of organisations and individuals to get involved in events, debates, campaigns, festivals, broadcasts and pledges which recognise the extraordinary achievements of women from all walks of life. It's also a moment to reflect and take action in response to the challenges, injustices, prejudices and inequalities that still hold women back in the 21st Century.
I was immersed in IWD 2015 just under a week ago and it felt more real and exciting than ever before. Trending globally on Twitter, there was a renewed sense of urgency to actively involve men as well as women, along with more detailed and pertinent responses than ever before in the press, on air and across a multitude of different digital platforms.
How then, you might ask, would anyone want to put a damper on things by questioning this empowering initiative? That's what I asked myself too but perhaps because of its success, I've been finding it impossible not to think about the extent to which IWD might be used by some to tick boxes rather than instigate sustainable action. Isn't there a risk that corporations, organisations, policy makers and political leaders will concentrate on using IWD - now that it has more attention- to wave flags for a special occasion rather than put in the hours that a longer term strategy for gender equality requires? I also can't get my head around how on earth we can celebrate such a multitude of voices, question such a range of important issues and advance such a fundamental human cause through the outcomes of one day's activity. And that applies even when I think of my sector - the creative industries - alone.
The way I get around this dilemma is by ensuring that the IWD events to which I devote the most time and energy do have a long-term goal. They have impact throughout the year and across different sectors in the UK and overseas. For example, I regularly take part in Southbank Centre's Women of the World Festival which has spawned a year-round global movement thanks to Jude Kelly's compelling vision and fearless leadership. At PRS for Music Foundation we're also in it for the long haul. We've spent the past five years running Women Make Music, a targeted programme which funds and raises awareness of women composers and songwriters as part of our ongoing commitment to supporting the diversity of those making new music in the UK. 86% of its applicants were seeking our support for the first time. We're now discussing this fund with partners in Europe and in the US so that we can build peer networks and opportunities for musicians in different parts of the world, where we want to champion role models for future generations.
We also want to influence other funders and policymakers across the creative industries to consider pro-active ways to increase representation of women in their sector (women make up 13% of the UK's songwriters and composers, 7% of Film Directors, 11% of screenwriters, 4% of Music Producer Guild membership, 15% of UK games development industry. All shockingly low).
So my plea is not about questioning the importance of International Women's Day because it's still very much needed, as others have stressed. Instead, it's about giving the 8th March more substance by imploring everyone who gets involved in this 24 hour celebration to think about and start planning for their longer term commitment to change; their day-in, day-out pledge to achieving equality amongst men and women. A pledge which could be personal or professional, local, global or all of the above.
And come to think of it, to demonstrate our collective ambition and to build on the momentum of this year's IWD, couldn't we persuade the EU, the UN or whoever holds the brief for Minister of Equalities after the UK elections in May to promote a Year of Gender Equality in 2016 instead of 1 day? This could at least be one step towards encouraging leaders to champion a longer-term vision.
Even as I write this, the desire for continued momentum beyond one day can really be felt on the ground. For example the inspirational She Said So network, which I was invited to speak at this week is meeting regularly and Sound Women, which has been running since 2011, is holding its Future Festival this weekend.
So yes Dinah Washington was right - what a difference a day makes. But it will take more than 24 little hours for meaningful change; more time, investment and determination to instigate change that most of us won't see in our lifetimes unless we #makeithappen all year round.