Today is International Women’s Day, and its theme this year is #BreakTheBias. What does that mean? It’s a demand for a gender-equal world free of stereotypes and discrimination; a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive; and a world where difference is valued and celebrated – which is exactly what we stand for here at Studio10.
Bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead – particularly women in midlife and beyond. Action is needed to level the playing field. So what can we do?
Recognising the achievements of other strong women is a good place to start. One whose work I’ve long admired is human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin – you may know her better as Amal Clooney. She’s a fighter on an international scale, and has defended the rights of neglected and marginalised groups, individuals, journalists – and government leaders who have been illegally stripped of their powers. She also works with some of the most vulnerable people in society.
But the thing I love most about her (along with her incredible wardrobe) is the stance she has taken on women’s rights – New York magazine’s The Cut has called her “the consummate feminist superhero”. “If we keep up the fight for women’s rights,” Clooney has said, “there is nothing we can’t do.” She has established an annual scholarship that supports a female student from Lebanon to attend UWC Dilijan College, and has spoken out about the #MeToo movement, rape as a weapon of war, and the need for women to stand up for one another.
“At a time when women all over the world face physical abuse, restrictions over their ability to work, own property, travel and even have custody over their children, we need courage,” Clooney told Vanderbilt University students recently. “Be courageous. Challenge orthodoxy. Stand up for what you believe in.”
Amal Clooney is well aware of the complexity of women’s inequality and how “the challenges that women face today are completely different based on where they’re born”. And not just where, but when – how often do we, as women in midlife, feel discriminated against not just because of our sex, but also our age? And how often have we at Studio10 advocated the need to break down those barriers, smash the stereotypes and tell the world we matter? We must all be the change we want to see in the world.
As a child of the Lebanon War, Clooney knows about conflict – which is particularly relevant given the situation in Ukraine right now. Her family fled to Europe in 1982 and settled in the UK. She studied at Oxford, then New York University, before embarking on an international career fighting for human rights and social justice.
Clooney believes that “outrage drives action”. It’s a feeling I know only too well – and one that led me to kick-start the PRO AGE movement at Studio10. I’m constantly trying to challenge society’s outdated stereotypes, which only serve to diminish our value as women in midlife, and fighting to reframe the misguided narrative that only youth can be relevant. For me breaking the bias goes hand in hand with stamping out ageism once and for all.
Education is key if we’re to achieve our goals, which is why I’m continually trying to get our message out to the younger generation – including my daughters.Clooney is an educator who is aiming to inspire the next wave of young lawyers fighting for human rights in the courts; she also lectures at Columbia University Law School’s Human Rights Institute and has set up the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which works to protect marginalised communities, support children’s education, seek justice for refugees and oppose hate crimes. That’s a pretty impressive list of achievements for one woman. Amal Clooney, we salute you.
So let’s make International Women’s Day 2022 the most meaningful yet. We stand together to #BreakTheBias, advocate for social justice and support the PRO AGE movement.
In 2020 Clooney was asked about her thoughts in relation to the pandemic. Her answer is even more relevant today: “We are entering a new era of togetherness... What are we teaching our children?... What values do they espouse?... We should all be agents of change.”