Monday, March 8, is International Women’s Day when the achievements of inspirational women of all ages and backgrounds across the world, both now and in the past, will be celebrated.

Recognising the great contribution women make is a key part of International Women’s Day but equally important is its rallying cry for us all to strive for equality throughout the year. For equality and raising awareness against bias is what the campaign is all about. It urges us all to work together to create a world free from discrimination, where everyone has access to the same opportunities.

At Durham County Council, our Cabinet, which is our policy-making body, is gender balanced. Similarly, our leadership and senior management team is also gender balanced, while our gender pay gap is one of the lowest among local authorities in the region.

We are proud to be an equal opportunities employer, but we also recognise that there is always more that can be done.

Encouraging people to change the way they look at certain careers is a good example. Roles such as those in the care sector, primary and nursery schools and the arts often attract more applications from women than men, despite the fact that men can be just as caring and creative as women.

Other roles, such as those in construction, highways, business, and finance, tend to be dominated by men, even though women are just as capable as excelling in these careers.

The theme of International Women’s Day this year is Choose to Challenge and it’s important we all question these preconceptions to ensure gender is never a barrier to pursuing your dreams.

To help spread this message, next week, we are hosting a webinar for County Durham schoolchildren featuring talks by women who are working in traditionally male roles at the council.

This includes a highways inspector, fitness instructor and our corporate director of regeneration, whose role involves overseeing major investments in transport, housing, leisure, culture, and towns and villages across the county.

I hope their success and passion for the work they do shows young people of all genders that there really is no limit as to what can be achieved.

To find out more about International Women’s Day, visit:

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council