Feminism now a familiar word - and that's a good thing

Millions of protesters marched worldwide last January in support of women's right and against President Trump's policies
Roseann Kelly

IT'S been a powerful last 12 months for women and their voices. Feminism has been a key movement and has resonated across the gender divide with support from leaders, movie stars and influencers such as Justin Trudeau, Meghan Markle and Beyonce.

So I was especially delighted to learn that the Merriam-Webster dictionary has announced that ‘feminism' is their Word of the Year.

Defined as ‘the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes' and as the ‘organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests', feminism was the most searched word in its online dictionary, with the term generating 70 per cent more searches compared to last year, spiking interest as women's issues hit the headlines.

:: In January, the word first spiked after the Women's Marches in the USA and beyond after President Donald Trump's inauguration. At this time, women's issues and the difficulties they face were brought into sharp focus.

:: The gender pay gap dominated in July as the BBC announced their highest earners, with Chris Evans topping the list, earning £2.2 million, a whopping four times more than the highest paid woman, Claudia Winkelman. This revelation quickly generated conversation on the inequalities women face in the workplace and inspired change both locally and nationally.

:: By the autumn, the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations against film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein, saw the viral #MeToo movement publicise women's experiences, demonstrating the widespread nature of misogynistic behaviour.

So, what can we learn from the Merriam-Webster word of the year?

Evidently, feminism is a concept which is becoming more familiar, which can only be a good thing. But we must be aware that the crusade to establish gender equality in society is far from over.

The conversation has been started and it must be continued. There is still a great deal to be done in society, at home and in employment.

In the UK workplace there is a median pay gap of 18.5 per cent, one in 10 women have experienced sexual harassment and only 28 per cent of board positions are held by females.

In order to tackle this disparity locally, Women in Business has launched the Gender Diversity Charter Mark for Northern Ireland. The charter recognises that organisations cannot reach their full potential unless they benefit from the varied talents of all their employees.

Designed to enable organisations to identify and reflect on institutional barriers facing women that impact on their career progression, the Charter helps progress the overall diversity agenda, and the working environment for all employees in the organisation.

Looking ahead to 2018, Women in Business are delighted to deliver an exciting calendar of programmes to equip and empower business women across Northern Ireland.

New initiatives along with current programmes promise to offer motivation, direction and guidance for all women in business and we are inspired to join the authoritative voices in driving home the feminist movement.

To find out more about our programmes and how you can benefit, visit

:: Roseann Kelly (roseann@ is chief executive of Women in Business, the largest and fastest growing business network for female entrepreneurs and senior women in management in Northern Ireland, with 2,500 members spread throughout all industry sectors. Follow Women in Business NI on Facebook at or on Twitter @wibni.

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