International Women's Day

GCU's annual celebration of International Women's Day (IWD) is an important and visible part of our commitment to advancing gender equality. We take a whole institution approach to marking this important day. This section illustrates our current and past International Women's Day activities though articles, information and resources.

This year, March 8th is International Women's Day, which is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women's achievements or rally for women's equality. 

This year's theme is #ChooseToChallenge, and Glasgow Caledonian University are hosting a series of events to champion gender equality. You can find out more about this year's campaign on the IWD website.

GCU's International Women's Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge

Our Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE said: "At Glasgow Caledonian University, we are proud of the work we have done to reduce the gender pay gap, to encourage women to take leadership roles at the University, where 40 per cent of our professors are women, and to work in partnership with outstanding men, like our Nobel Prize-winning Emeritus Chancellor, Muhammad Yunus, to create educational opportunities for women in nursing in Bangladesh.

“But there is a long way to go yet in the creation of women’s equality and we must all continue to play our part.”

​The University Chancellor Dr Annie Lennox has shared a powerful message to help mark International Women's Day.

Dr Lennox is a truly committed advocate of global feminism and recorded a short video message for us to share with staff, students and our University community.

This year's International Women's Day theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ and calls on everyone to challenge and raise awareness against gender bias, celebrate women’s achievements, and take action for equality.

In her video, Dr Lennox urges people to ask themselves what they can do to help create a more inclusive world.

Student President Susan Docherty has also called for greater action on achieving gender balance around the world.

She said: “We may be of a different generation, have lived different lives, and come from a variety of backgrounds, countries and walks of life, but together we can all stand up for justice and equality of women everywhere. It is our duty to speak out against discrimination and stand up for social and economic justice and equality for all.”

International Women's Day 2021 Events Schedule

International Women's Day 2021 Events Schedule

Virtual Menopause Cafe 

Our virtual Menopause Café will meet again on Zoom on March 11. 

The informal networking session will give colleagues the opportunity to come together, enjoy a tea or coffee and have a chat.

During the session, external guest Karran Bonner, a people development coach and mindfulness and wellness practitioner, will hold a mini mindfulness meditation.

It will take place from 2pm to 3pm. Further information can be found on Caledonian Connected


Online Campaign: Challenging Gender Stereotypes 

The campaign theme for this year's International Women's Day is #ChooseToChallenge and calls on everyone to accelerate women's equality, celebrate the achievements of women and help to create an inclusive world. We have worked to produce a campaign which will be laucnhed through GCU's Social Media Channels and Caledonian Connected on the 8th of March.  


Poetry Showcase

For Information on the Poetry Showcase please see below. 

Poetry Showcase

As part of our activities for IWD 2021 at Glasgow Caledonian University, we launched a poetry showcase to encourage staff and students to engage creatively with our values and champion gender equality.

A panel reviewed entries to the showcase and entires to the competition are outlined below. Alongside these entries four were selected which were an exceptional example of both the GCU values, and the IWD Campaign of Choose to Challenge. The poets reading their entires aloud can be viewed at the GCU Youtube Channel.

More information and the showcase can be viewed at the drop down menu below.

Poetry Showcase Poems 1 - 4

Poem 1: David Grimm

As we stand atop shoulders of giants, and see the horizon
Of a brighter dawn, a shining sunshine of tomorrow to come.

Those giants gone by, the ones that came before pathing the way
Stone by excruciating stone, never forget the faces that are gone…
The ones that brought riots to political doors, the ones that were beaten
Or trampled, without cause.
Who screamed feminine issues in the worlds ears,
And made us all wake up and pay due attention.
The ones that kicked the doors open, took fire to witch pyres
and laws, breaking down walls of old, irrelevant, disgraceful, and sexist ways.

As we stand upon the world that they sculpted, it is our smiles that
We must now wear. we must shine bright for all to see, and lead our
Lives as examples to the young, teach them to stand, show them,
That we will support the growth of their own smiles, incredible,

Help them stand on our shoulders, as the women before did for us.

The way those champions shone, the way they helped us see,
Forceful and bold, sophisticated, and elegant, like fire from heaven
Bringing change to a much-needed struggle.
So too must we shine an eternal flame for the women in our lives,
Never laugh when it feels wrong, never belittle them to feel tall,
Never fire a dig as they show us their scared and challenge all that would see them fall,
But never remove their ability to walk, never block their sun, give them their space
So they grow strong and tall in equal measure to all.

Male, female, non-binary or trans, all of us must stand,
Hand in hand, with placards or signs, to help Equality thrive across the lands.


Poem 2: PKay Khawas: POWER

They say that power is a wealthy white man,
but that is a narrative that I cannot understand.
As for people like me, it is hard to face
that power will never resemble my race.

The year is 2021 and it’s time to make a stand
to challenge the idea that power only belongs to man,
to challenge the idea that power is only white -
as power is obtained by those who fight.

For those who fight for women’s right to education
and those who have inspired a future generation.
Power is those like Malala Yousafzai
who refuse to simply stay quiet and comply.

Power is trans women like Sylvia Rivera
with their courage influencing a new era.
A new era of supporting LGBTQ+ rights
and for allowing all types of women to unite.

Power is Harriet Tubman and other pioneers
who believed slaves should be free and live without fear,
who believed humans are equal no matter their skin;
who lead civil rights movements to begin.

We are women of colour who refuse to be oppressed
as power is something They can no longer divest.
As women of the future, we now heed the call
to change the image of power, into an image of us all!


Poem 3: Pete Yetton: Your definition

Choose to challenge, we have to challenge
My head bowed, heart heavy with deception,
Knowing that my daughter’s fight for equality began at her conception?
The world remains skewed, out of shape and twisted,
With acceptance being a concept reserved for the shadowed society.

Privilege the punchline at pre-Covid parties over Malbec, couscous and Brie.
Fairness, #, a face, a voice, a campaign in prose and poetry.
Integrity still on ceremony, formal, bound and gagged.
Empowerment erased, esteem encased,
Far from my acceptance, as I choke on my tea and toast, are we still here?

With media streams reports of abuse, no rights and kidnapped souls,
Scythed spirits and words washed into drains.
Why are we not challenging the continued need to promote fairness?
Why are we still fighting for acceptance and equality, within unspoken filth for the fairest?
The corruptions of decisions, vacuous collaborations, blinded to consultation,
Agendas that lasso the rising stars, in a swamp of acrid toxic masculinity.

My daughter is a lioness in this savannah of armed men,
And yet some of these men, they hunt the poachers.
My guilt. She starts her life with sword in one hand, shield in another.
Her body, her shape, her hair, her eyes will set her back, behind her brother.
Her climb in life limited, her voice being octaves higher.
Her acceptance, her progress, her promotion links to her fashion.

The greys and browns of opportunity are still being sold as rainbows.
I’m not the only man that doesn’t fit into the stereotypes of issuing low blows.
In this issue, that still exists on every street corner in our fractured cities.
Who is the ‘Attenborough’ for my sisters?

My blinkered brothers, bastardize rationale for International Men’s Day?
Their version having as much validity as all lives matter. Every day is our day!
A white man and privileged I am a part of the guilty intimidation,
But never did I wave the oppressive flag, or stomach initiation.
Why are we not horrified with no opinions from women,
No creation from women, no platforms, power or guidance from women?

What challenge beyond poverty, traditions, cultures and norms?
Customs formed as tumours within books of old.
Yet these testaments cancer into echelons of opportunity,
From rice field and textile mill to the corporate club of immunity.
The glass ceiling was upgraded to steel, over the sleeping lioness.
Transparency painted over, authenticity dismantled during the night shift.

Sisters buck the trend of top heavy testosterone communal showers,
Cracked, stained, white tiles, mould on grout and stagnant water.
Exposed bias now bathing in a spa of equality?
Sadly, not when my east and west fester in my brain paradoxically.
Obsessive equality, imbalanced when not checked.

I choose to challenge those who base success on sex.
This gender-grapnel dragging too many down into the riptides of injustice.
I choose to challenge my brothers that when your chariot breaks apart,
you leave it broken. Use the wood and build houses for your sisters.
The ones you never sheltered. Embrace the bleeding of your blisters.

My final challenge is to my sisters that when this weight is lifted,
And your scars are almost healed, that
not all with guns are poachers, and
you are not defined by tears.

For Lucy -



Poem 4: Harriet Ruvimbo: Roots

The trees have been teaching me the art of taking up space,
But silence is a gift passed down and deeply rooted in my veins.
Where thoughts tumble out of a man’s mouth,
Ours sit in the dark forbidden corners,
To be summoned and dressed up
Primped to perfection,
Each syllable dulled and dolled
So that when we speak,
our words are soft and easy on the ear.

The older women have only ever known the cramped up corners of tables I see it in the way they sit,
Apologetic for being powerful
As if magnificence ever needed a reason
As if their wombs are graveyards, not castles.

I do not blame them.
I watch beer bottles empty steadily and the chief’s belly expand.
His presence fills the room.
The boys grow up sampling freedom with their tongues and hands, Whoever they can’t persuade, they break.

A young woman stabbed in the neck.
Another forced to marry a man twice her age,
Another fired for protecting her integrity.
I have seen too much blood to allow my words to lie dormant.
The ground groans and whispers tales of many of my kind
whose wombs and heads have been split open.

We can not stay silent.
Let us summon our thoughts from their crevices.
They shall testify of the blood on their hands.
Let us leave the table corners we are given
and build our own.
And for our sons and daughters,
Let us teach them the love language of equality.
The dialect of ‘though our struggles are different, there is magic in all of us.’

We are more than enough as individuals, What more when we come together?
Won't our cup runneth over?


Poetry Showcase Poems 5 - 9

Poem 5: Susan Docherty 

To be honest and to have morals is the definition of Integrity
The use of imagination creates the word Creativity
Bring them together at Glasgow Caledonian University
Core values at the heart of students and faculty

Responsibility means to accept accountability
And Confidence is trust in others reliability
It is also to appreciate one's own ability and quality
All Common Good Attributes within the GCU community
Making me proud to be part of this civic university

So let's take these values and put them together to create equity
Challenging the world for gender equality
Not just for women at home but females internationally
Because at GCU we embrace every nationality

Let's all Choose To Challenge and demand gender equality
Not just on March the 8th but every day for liberty
Let’s all raise awareness and stop the impartiality
And challenge the world to take action for equality.


Poem 6: Mercy Chege: She

When the sun rises, so does she. Oh, so confidently.
On her sleeves, lies creativity and poise.
Manoeuvring through her day with diligence and integrity.
Eventually, dusk falls. So does she. Oh, so responsibly.
Neither her gender, nor her skin colour, defines her best.
Simply, She.


Poem 7: Sofia Naydenova

We all

We are all the same
We all play the same game!
We all crave food and water
We all also need love- on that matter!

Therefore, we all have the right
Against all odds and despite
Societal boundaries, leave a trace
In striving to make this world a better place.

A place where we all support each other
Regardless of place and hour.
A place where we all spot the spark
Rather than focusing on the dark.

A place where in need- needless to say
Help will already be on its way.
A place where a work is appreciated
No matter who initiate it!

And I dare suggest
While I hold this thought in my chest,
That we all share the same dream
To have an equal shot
For the spot
On the same team.


Poem 8: Maggie: The Prestige

Daughters increase divorce,’
they said,
as if it was our fault for being born.
Daughters decrease indifference --
empower and ignite
the embers of self-worth; deferred defiance
replaced by the inherently self-sacrificing
Is he violent?
Divorce isn’t good for a child, they say,
show your daughters that this is okay.
Mum, why do you let him treat you that way?
The inexplicability of
a lioness thwarted by paradigm,
that uninspiring trick.
Daughters are the prestige.


Poem 9: Ayodeji Matuluko: Purpose has no gender

“You are too ambitious.”

Words often repeated as though a negative trait.
Words used to sow seeds of doubt.
As if she would never be feminine enough, or be accepted by others as long as her ‘ambition’ does not conform to what society expects of a woman.

What is not seen behind the so-called ‘over-ambition’, is passion.
A drive to fulfil life’s purpose; purpose which is not gendered and which does not have any limits.
For God created all equal and the world is everyone’s to conquer.

To see another’s life transformed is what gives her joy.
She chooses to strive for a better world in her own corner.
She wakes up every morning and feels no doubts.

For she knows that she’s capable of being anything she wants to be.
And the world will be just a little better because she’s doing her part as a human.

Previous International Women's Day Campaigns at GCU

International Women’s Day Campaign Group (IWDCG)

The International Women’s Day Campaign Group (IWDCG) is a group of staff and student volunteers who each year, in partnership with the GCU Aurora Team and GCU Alumni, that come together each year to produce a week-long programme to support the university’s commitment to gender equality. 

IWD at GCU 2020

Glasgow Caledonian University continues to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8 with a series of activities on campus all this week.

This year's International Women's Day theme is "each for equal" and calls on everyone to play their part in creating an equal, just world.

Our Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE said: "The evidence is clear, gender equality is essential for our economies and communities to thrive. A gender-equal world can be healthier, wealthier, more harmonious and happier, and more socially cohesive. At Glasgow Caledonian University, we take a values-led whole-institutional approach to gender equality from top down, where we have a balanced Executive Board and 40% of our Professors are female, to bottom up where we focus on completely eliminating gender pay gaps. As a University Community we believe in putting “Each for Equal” into practice."

Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE discusses how GCU achieves "Each for Equal"

The University Chancellor Dr Annie Lennox has shared a powerful message to help mark International Women's Day.

Dr Lennox is a truly committed advocate of global feminism and recorded a short video message for us to share with staff, students and our University community.

This year's International Women's Day theme was "each for equal" and called on everyone to play their part in creating an equal, just world.
In her video, Dr Lennox urges people to work together to promote global feminism and make the world a better place.

Chancellor Annie Lennox's message for International Women's Day 2020

The Chancellor's message was part of a series of events and activities to celebrate International Women's Day, which has been held every year on March 8 since 1977, when the UN invited member states to declare a day for women's rights.

Students from the University also came together to show us their Each for Equal Pose.

 GCU celebrates International Women's Day 2020

An exhibition in the University Archive in the Sir Alex Ferguson Library is showcasing some of its resources that illustrate the role of women around the world in human rights campaigns including the anti-apartheid movement and the battle to topple Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile

 GCU Archives explore women's roles in international campaigns


Events Schedule

To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, the University and Students' Association are running a series of events over the next two weeks that celebrate the achievements of women and promote gender equality within our University and beyond.

Tuesday, February 25 - 3.30pm to 4.30pm: Menopause Café informal networking session

This session will give colleagues the opportunity to gather, enjoy a tea or coffee and have a chat.

Based on the principles of the Menopause Café, it will be held in a respectful and confidential space and there will be no pre-set agenda – topics will be chosen by the participants on the day.


Wednesday, February 26 – 2.30pm to 4pm: Imposter Syndrome - Befriending Your Inner Imposter

Led by Jackie Main, Director of Student Experience, this event will look at the concept of "imposter syndrome".

If you have ever suffered from self-doubt at work, thought that others were more accomplished, confident or better at their job or have worried that you will be exposed as a fake, then you probably understand the concept already. The good news is that many hugely successful people suffer from imposter syndrome.

This workshop will provide the opportunity to share experiences and to explore how you can develop tactics to overcome anxieties and turn these feelings into something positive.

Tuesday, March 3 – 1.10pm to 2pm: Free self-defence class at the Arc

The Arc is offering a chance to try out self-defence for free. Come along to learn self-defence skills, build a strong mind-set and increase your motivation, fitness and power.


February 24 to March 6: The Circle and First Responder information stands

Stands will be in Campus Life in the George Moore building to give information about the support we offer our staff and students, as well as external support.

Come along to find out more about the Student's Association The Circle Society, a collective within The Circle, a charity founded by our Chancellor Dr Annie Lennox OBE to champion women's rights around the world. You can also speak to our First Responder Team who have been trained in supporting and advising survivors of gender based and sexual violence.


February 24 to March 8: Pledge wall
Show your commitment to a gender-equal world and sign our digital pledge wall in the University Archive in the Sir Alex Ferguson Library.
You can use this link to sign the wall and tell us: 'What action can you take to help forge a more gender equal world?'

​February 24 to March 24: #Each for Equal International Women Activists exhibition

An exhibition in the University Archive in the Sir Alex Ferguson Library will highlight the activism roles that women have undertaken across the world. The mimosa flower is a symbol for International Women's Day and will be displayed as part of the exhibition.

IWD at GCU 2019

GCU's commitment to promoting gender equality across our campuses has been recognised by the International Women's Day 2019 Best Practice Competition.

The University has been selected as an example of good practice in the competition's Education and Academia: Knowledge and Impact category.

More than 300 groups entered the competition, showcasing their achievements and explaining how they engaged audiences and communities to help address equality issues on International Women's Day on March 8. GCU was one of just eight institutions worldwide to be recognised in the Education and Academia category.

The University marked International Women's Day by a series of activities and videos encouraging students and staff to recognise their value and to pledge their own commitment to improving gender equality.

A series of talks and discussions focused on the practical challenges women often have to overcome during their careers, such as caring for families, part-time working and how to engage in or broaden the conversation about work-life balance.

In a video shared on our intranet and social media channels, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE listed the great strides our institution has made to promote equality of opportunity for staff through initiatives such as the Aurora network. She also praised progress on tackling the gender pay gap and the 'Erase the Grey' campaign, GCU's campaign against gender-based violence.

Our Chancellor Dr Annie Lennox OBE, one of the world's most influential Human Rights campaigners and a truly committed advocate of global feminism, also recorded a short video message for the University.

Professor Valerie Webster, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Learning, Teaching and Student Experience) and Executive Sponsor of the Aurora network, said: "Our International Women's Day activities brought together staff and students from across the University and the Students' Association – of all genders, grades and roles – to support the development of a gender-balanced world.

"The success of our campaign would not have been possible without our staff and student volunteers, and I would like to thank all of those individuals for their dedication and hard work.

"In line with our Athena SWAN commitment, GCU is committed to celebrating all aspects of diversity and inclusion, and receiving this external recognition from IWD highlights the University's considerable progress to date."

Read GCU's International Women's Day best practice case study on the IWD website.


GCU Celebrates International Women's Day 2019 

IWD at GCU 2018

In an unprecedented year in which women’s rights have gathered momentum, captured headlines and public opinion, and called for change, we are joining the International Women’s Day (IWD) Press for Progress campaign.

This week, Thursday March 8, the voices of women and men around the world will be raised in celebration of women.

We are proud to add our voice to the millions and to highlight our ongoing commitment to equality of opportunity.

Through championing IWD and lending our support to the voice of millions, we have campaigned this week to highlight equality of opportunity. The University community has come together to support the #PressforProgress campaign in our video.

Press for Progress at GCU

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, said: “Our University is committed to championing our female and male staff and students.

“International Women’s Day is a call for gender parity and, as the University for the Common Good, we are committed to equal pay, eliminating discrimination, and promoting equality of opportunity. It is important that we listen and lead in creating a more equal society for all.

“We have embraced transparency in our gender pay gap, which despite being one of the smallest in the sector, we are determined to reduce year-on-year and to lend our support to the global campaign to press for progress.”

To mark this momentous day, we are raising awareness of the University’s commitment to equal pay and the strides we have made to reduce the gender pay gap – as set out in our statement on equal pay.

As reported in our Public Sector Equality Duty Report 2017, the pay gap between men and women has continued to reduce and, as of April 1, it had further decreased to 14.5% in comparison to 20% for other Scottish Higher Education Institutions and our gender pay gap for female academic staff has reduced from 8.2% in April 2015 to 4.2% in July 2017.

We support the development of female leaders in our university community, recognised by our Athena SWAN Bronze Award. Through our Athena SWAN action plan, we are committed to equality and diversity and to support the advancement and promotion of the careers of women. To date, the University has supported more than 70 female members of staff to participate in the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education’s Aurora Programme, with a further 40+ senior female members of staff taking part in mentoring positions to help colleagues in their development.

Women professors at the University are at a record high of more than 40%, positioning GCU as a sector leader in the number of women appointed to senior academic positions; this is set against a backdrop of just 23% of female professors in the UK, according to a study by the Equality Challenge Unit’s ‘Equality in Higher Education 2017’. And finally, the appointment of Dr Annie Lennox OBE as our first female Chancellor also marks an important step in the University’s evolution.

GCU celebrates International Women's Day 2018 with its female professoriate


Students too have added their support to the campaign through their 'woman up' video which told the stories of five inspirational women who each challenge perceptions.

IWD at GCU 2017

GCU marked International Women's Day by reaffirming its commitment to promoting gender equality.

A signatory of the Athena SWAN Charter, established to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women, the University achieved the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award last year.

The Charter was established in 2005, with a particular focus on the careers of women in higher education and research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine. The University has now signed up to a newly expanded charter which recognises work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and in professional and support roles, as well as work to support trans staff and students.

GCU Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies has formally pledged the University's commitment to achieving the new aims: focusing on the advancement of gender equality in academia; addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines, professional and support functions; and removing the obstacles faced by women in particular at major points of career development.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Professor Valerie Webster, Executive lead for GCU's work with Athena SWAN, said: "At GCU, we are genuinely committed to tackling inequalities wherever they occur and are delighted to sign up to the newly expanded charter, which recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly; not just barriers to progression that affect women."

GCU also marked International Women's Day by bringing together staff from the University who have been supported to take part in Aurora, the Leadership Foundation's women-only leadership development programme. Aurora alumni chose to wear red clothing; a bold colour that has become associated with the annual celebration of women.

Aurora at GCU celebrates International Women's Day


The Careers Service marked the day with an event to raise awareness among students of the graduate gender pay gap and to open a dialogue with students on how they can contribute to eradicating it. Both students and staff were asked to pledge to be 'bold for change' and leave comments on a wall in the Campus Life Lounge.