A year passes so quickly…again we will be celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8. It is a wonderful event and a time to take stock. It reminds us that it is never enough to just recognise the problems that we face as a gender. The rallying call for this year’s International Women's Day - #BeBoldForChange – charges each one of us to be a leader to accelerate gender parity. Working together we can unleash the limitless potential women offer to the global economy.

When I joined the professional cleaning industry, I noticed huge gaps in gender diversity, and became deeply unsettled at the lack of prestige connected with cleaning jobs. I am constantly pushing for change and the need to support our female employees. I have a compulsion to solve this problem. It is the inspiration for my crusade.

We must be bold. Despite consistent efforts to forge a better working world, the World Economic Forum has predicted it will take until 2186 to entirely close the gender gap. 

This is shocking. It is far too long for us to wait. We must all use IWD as a vehicle for driving greater change for women and moving closer to the parity we demand.

Celebrations of what we as a gender are achieving are necessary and always welcome. These special days are energising, they prevent us becoming too self-satisfied or complacent. They remind us of how far we have come but also how far we still have to go to achieve our goals.

IWD shares its date with the Catalyst awards this year. I have been generous in my praise for the truly inspiring work they do. Their mission in advancing the cause of women, by creating more inclusive workplaces where employees representing every dimension of diversity can thrive echoes IWD and is very close to my heart.

Involvement in either of these events is a great chance to compare progress with my fellow leaders and other like-minded women. I feel humbled by the challenges women around the world face and I am elated by their successes.

These events shine a light on achievements from many businesses across many sectors. I am determined to ensure that women in the industry have all the access they need to education, training, networking and opportunities for professional development. Make the most of the opportunities these events give us and I’m sure, like me, any involvement will leave you buzzing with positivity. 

As part of my lifelong crusade towards empowering women in business I, alongside other like-minded females, created the ISSA Hygieia Network – the first women’s network for the global cleaning industry. This network has become a vibrant international community dedicated to promoting the entry into, advancement and retention of women in all branches and at all levels of the global cleaning industry. It achieves its objectives by developing programs to reduce illiteracy levels and foster academic achievement in members. As Chairwoman of the network, I am thrilled at how much it has grown.

Another significant day for action has just passed. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11 is something I hold particularly dear through my own experience as a scientist. Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals. Women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.

I find the evidence disturbing. According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability of female students graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in a science-related field are less than half that of their male counterparts. 

I am determined to contribute to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science, which will contribute further to achieving the agenda of IWD - gender equality and empowerment.

We must be vigilant but also driven to create opportunities for those who follow us. Fairness of opportunity and gender parity in the workplace don’t just happen. We must stay alert and proactive. We must all be catalysts and drive for change.

A year passes quickly… but the struggle goes on and as women we should never take for granted the determination required. So celebrate these important milestones; enjoy the awards as if they were your own and salute any progress as another step along the way; then redouble your efforts to overcome the barriers to inclusion for the coming year.