25 facts about women (for International Women’s Day 2011) #iwd

In honour of tomorrow being the 100th International Women’s Day, I have compiled a (hopefully interesting, if not useful) list of 25  facts about Women.  I have linked to/ quoted the source where possible.

In addition to first world problems of gender inequality, pay discrepancies, increase in female cancers etc. women in the developing world often face an insurmountable battle for basics such as birthing and raising children, surviving childbirth or education. Even in my own industry, the discrepancy between the percentage of women in PR and % at the top of their career is a genuine concern and in our own government, women are still woefully under-represented.

I’ll be talking to women in business over the coming weeks to see what they think needs to change in the UK to support working women and how they are approaching careers and family life but for now, here are some stats about Women across the globe.

  1. International Women’s Day is held each year on March 8. The annual event was first observed worldwide in 1909
  2. Women in the world’s least developed countries are 300 times more likely to die during childbirth or because of their pregnancy than those in the UK and other similarly developed countries (Guardian.co.uk)
  3. The Old English wifman meant “female human”……this was later coalesced to create the modern form “woman”.  The initial element, which meant “female,” underwent semantic narrowing to the sense of a married woman (“wife”) (wikipedia)
  4. The symbol for the planet Venus is the sign also used in biology for the female sex. It is a stylized representation of the goddess Venus’s hand mirror or an abstract symbol for the goddess: a circle with a small equilateral cross underneath (Unicode: ♀). The Venus symbol also represented femininity, and in ancient alchemy stood for copper. Alchemists constructed the symbol from a circle (representing spirit) above an equilateral cross (representing matter). (wikipedia)
  5. 16% of Fortune 500 companies have women on their board of directors in 2008, up from 11.2% in 1998. At this rate, they figure, it will take 40 years for there to be equal women to men represented on boards in the US. (Catalyst)
  6. In the US,  female-run start-ups more than doubled male-run from 1997-2005
  7. In the past, mortality rates for females in child-bearing age groups were higher than for males at the same age. This is no longer the case, and female human life expectancy is considerably higher than those of men
  8. In mid-2007 there were 31.0 million women compared with 29.9 million men in the UK population. (ONS)
  9. Men are ten times more likely than women to be employed in skilled trades (19 per cent compared with 2 per cent) and are also more likely to be managers and senior officials. A fifth of women in employment do administrative or secretarial work compared with 4 per cent of men. (ONS)
  10. In Great Britain, men are more likely than women to exceed the recommended daily limits for consumption of alcohol. (ONS)
  11. Among young adults (aged 16-19) more women (26 per cent) smoke than men (23 per cent) (ONS)
  12. More than two thirds of working-age women with dependent children (68 per cent) were in employment in 2008. (ONS)
  13. The first computer programmer was a woman (1842: Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), analyst of Charles Babbage‘s analytical engine and described as the “first computer programmer”)
  14. The world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji, was published in Japan around A.D. 1000 by female author Murasaki Shikibu (random history)
  15. The UK has the lowest number of female engineers in Europe – only 9 per cent of UK engineering professionals are women compared to 18 per cent in Spain, 26 per cent in Sweden and 20 per cent in Italy. (EngineeringUK)
  16. The first country to grant women the right to vote in the modern era was New Zealand in 1893 (random history)
  17. 22 per cent of seats in the Commons are held by women, and the Home Secretary has to combine her demanding job with that of Minister for Women and Equalities (Janet Street Porter, Mail)
  18. 700,000 people will experience domestic violence in the UK, and 90% of them are white British females (Guardian)
  19. only 12% of the UK’s boardroom seats (as compared to Norway’s 32%) are occupied by women (Guardian)
  20. Gender-based violence causes more deaths and disabilities among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war (Guardian)
  21. Two-thirds of children denied school are girls, 64% of the world’s illiterate adults are women, 41m girls are still denied a primary education (Guardian)
  22. 75% of civilians killed in war are women and children, causing Major-General Patrick Cammaert, the former UN peacekeeping commander in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to declare in 2008: “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict.” (Guardian)
  23. Headhunters could lose business if they fail to sign up to a code of conduct aimed at raising the number of women on company boards.  (FT)

And finally, a couple of stats from my own industry (public relations):

24. Men are almost twice as likely to be earning a salary in excess of £50,000 than women in the PR industry ( PR Week)

25. 70% of people in PR are women (2006), yet of PR Week’s ‘Top 25 PR personalities’ only five of the 25 were women and of the 2010 PowerBook of 100 top PR people, only 24 were women

Cross posted with my work blog


  1. Pingback: International Women
  2. Ru · March 8, 2011

    This is a great list of achievements to celebrate and inequalities to get to work on. I was thinking of compiling a list like this myself for IWD but didn’t know where to start! So, thank you.

    (Also just wanted to point out where you ave referenced NSO, that should be ONS. I work for the Office for National Statistics and am keen to keep our image accurate and up to date!)

    • Rebecca McMichael · March 8, 2011

      Hi Ru – thanks for stopping by and for commenting. Now duly adjusted 🙂

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