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This time last year, probably at the exact same time of day, and probably part-way through the exact same “can I squeeze another cuppa out of this teabag?” daydream, you opened an email (from your exact same dear ACM friends) that had a pretty punchy opener: 

“International Women’s Day? I’m not sold.”

ACM Co-founder Jojo’s introduction to last year’s special IWD dispatch did a great job of nabbing your attention – it was, in fact, one of our most popular newsletters of the year. But it also did a great job of summarising why we struggle with what we do to mark International Women’s Day each year. Because what’s really changed for women since you opened that last email 365 days ago? In fact, what’s really changed for women since millions took to the streets and raised their voices to protest gender inequality 123 years ago?  

This will become relevant soon. Honest.

The answer to that is, predictably, pretty depressing. 

We stand by our IWD sentiment. But, we also stand by the incredible women who we’ve joined in conversation over the last year, from the inspirational torchbearers for equality in our Outsider Insiders newsletters series and the empowering women we’re proud to call our clients, to the awesome external speakers we learn from every other month and our very own team, each and every one of us set on doing things differently to make even the smallest difference in our communities and cultures. 

So that’s what’s led us to today.

In the name of opening a dialogue of your own, we’ve brought together a handful of ACMers and a portion of clients to curate a list of must-see, gotta-hear, would-read, gonna-buy slices of thought-sparking creative culture that have not only inspired us, but will also inspire a conversation with whoever you share them with. 

THE GET-OUT-THERE-AND-GET-IT PODCAST: 9 LIVES

Charlotte TSP, Account Manager, ACM

30s pitch: This year I wanted to prove to myself that I’m capable of something BIG and BOLD. So I signed up for a marathon – cue serious Imposter Syndrome. Coincidentally (or thanks to the all-seeing algorithm overlord), as I was beginning to doubt myself, I found Cassia Tierney Clarke’s 9 Lives podcast. She talks through her journey from mental illness to ultramarathon runner, with her compassion and care for herself set against the backdrop of training and bettering her life. Whilst I admire live-it breathe-it super runners who dedicate their lives to improving times and distances, Cassia shows you can achieve great things and achieve mental wellness at the same time – it’s not a case of one first then the other. It totally reshaped how I approached my training.

Basically: Everyone can achieve. No matter where you’re starting, if you teach yourself discipline and practice compassion you will get there. Also, Cassia is one hell of a bad ass.

THE EMOTION-IN-MOTION MOVIE: EASTBOUND

Catriona Shearer, UK Marketing & PR Specialist, GORE-TEX brand

30s pitch: Jenny Graham‘s incredible adventure and achievement in being the fastest woman to ride around the world unsupported really struck a chord. If you want real, honest, and relatable, Eastbound is all of that – it’s a film that takes you through every emotion. As a mother now myself, I hugely admire Jenny’s journey – it gives me reason to believe I’ll get back to long-distance bike adventures one day! Believe, and be yourself in doing what you love.

Basically: If you believe it, you can.

THE FIND-YOUR-OWN-FACTS ARGUMENT: BLACK WAVE

Matt Barr, co-founder, ACM

30s pitch: Before I conducted my recent Looking Sideways interview with Gaza Surf Club founder Matt Olsen, I spent a LOT of time reading and researching.

Books like Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads and Helen Thompson’s Disorder were important in helping me to understand the wider history of the region. But the book that had the biggest impact on me by far, and that helped me see the last 45 years of Middle Eastern history through an entirely new lens, was Lebanese journalist and broadcaster Kim Ghattas’s magisterial Black Wave

She begins with a profound question – “What happened to us?” – and reminds us that before 1979, the Middle East was “a more vibrant place, without the crushing intolerance of religious zealots and seemingly endless, amorphous wars”. 

From there, she repaints the history of the Middle East as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, from which the rise of Islamism and all the region’s current geopolitical and human woes have ensued. 

Basically: If you want to understand a crucial chapter of modern history, be it the Middle East or gender equality, do your own research rather than just listen to the noise.

THE (DON’T)-DO-IT-ALL DOCU-FILM: HERE, HOLD MY KID

Charley Greening, Associate Director, ACM

30s pitch: Loads of laughs, loads of skiing. Here, Hold My Kidfollows two elite female big-mountain athletes as they juggle motherhood with their work, and the competitiveness they develop in their quest to become the ‘the mom who can do it all’. Yeah, it’s a tongue-in-cheek watch, but there are important themes that apply broadly to the experience of being a woman in the workplace.

Basically: Go easy on yourself. Though society will always expect it from you, you can’t do everything, and you can’t be everything to everyone.

THE KICK-ASS COMMERCE COMPANY: TOGETHXR

Stu Duggal, Account Manager, ACM

30s pitch: Women make up 44% of all participants in sport, yet only receive 15% of the media coverage. This star-studded female-founded company wants to put an end to the out-of-touch, often-cited trope that people aren’t interested in women’s sport.

Basically: Does what it says on the tee.

THE AWESOME-FROM-THE-OFF AUTOBIOGRAPHY: JOG ON

Nouran Al-Jandali, Head of People, ACM

30s pitch: This book is the reason I started running again. I know that Bella Mackie’s story of mental health and wellbeing has done the same for many others, too. 

Basically: Lace up for your head, not just your body.

THE WAIT-A-MINUTE!? MUST-READ: WHAT ABOUT MEN?

Bronwen Foster-Butler, CMO, Finisterre

30s pitch: Okay, this is going to be controversial – I’m very aware that this is a lot like when Ron Swanson won ‘Woman Of The Year’ in Parks & Recreation. But one of the most powerful books I’ve read recently about gender equality is Caitlin Moran’s What About Men?. It explores why, despite the rise of feminism and gender equality, domestic violence is still on the rise and the likes of Andrew Tate and incels exist. It ultimately concludes that although we have done a brilliant job at starting to tackle the patriarchy, we haven’t been good enough at including men in that work. While the book is far from perfect (it’s drawn a lot of criticism from men!) the reason this resonated with me as a feminist is that I think we – at times – have made the argument too much about women’s superiority rather than gender equality. As a mother of a young boy and a young girl, I want them to grow up feeling proud, capable, and excited about what they can achieve; or, to quote Ms Moran herself: “I wish for any man, or boy, everything I have wished for my daughters: that they can be proud of who they were born as; that this will never be a burden to them; that they can appear as they like; that they understand both their own pain and that of others; that they can love out loud with their whole hearts…”.

Basically: The patriarchy is bad for everybody, and it will require all of us to dismantle its systems of oppression.

THE TEN-MINUTE GOTTA-WATCH: THE BLIND ASCENT

Andrew Josty, Account Executive, ACM

30s pitch: Tamara Lunger has the most incredible stories about the most incredible adventures in the most incredible mountains around the world. But this GORE-TEX film does a perfect job of summing up how incredible she is as a woman. It explores her relationship with British paraclimber Jesse Dufton and is a lunch break-filling masterclass in trust, friendship, and dedication. 

Basically: Fear will get between you and whatever it is you want to achieve. Remove it, and you’re left with endless opportunity.

THE CONFIDENCE-BUILDING SKATE COMMUNITY: TAKE IT EASY CREW

Amelia Steele, Content & Social Media Manager, Shackleton

30s pitch: Discovering Take It Easy Crew made the summer of 2021 truly magical. I had skateboarded a tiny bit previously, but never had a community to help push me further into it. Without a lot of female representation, I lacked the confidence to visit parks and progress. The Take It Easy Crew is an inclusive group of women and queer people learning to skateboard in their 20s and 30s. Meeting the crew genuinely changed my life: it has built my confidence, pushed my personal boundaries, and found me some lifelong friends. 

Basically: We all love mixed gender spaces, but the importance of women and queer spaces in traditionally male-dominated fields can’t be overstated. The demand is real, and women building confidence in these spaces makes them better for everyone.

THE HEROING-THE-HEROES SOCIAL SERIES: @AMBERASAY

Daniele Chiarantini, Senior Creative, ACM

30s pitch: Paula Scher, Corita Kent, Cipe Pineles. Recognise those names? Yeah, don’t worry – neither do the history books. This series of IG Reels by creative director Amber Asay profiles the mostly unknown women designers who’ve played a hugely important role in the progression of my industry.

Basically: Spread the knowledge.

THE GROUND-BREAKING GUT PUNCH: LHOTSE

Chris Sayer, Senior Creative & Copy Editor, ACM

30s pitch: I’m trying my best to write this without making it all about me – something CIS white males like me are so great at on days like IWD2024. So I’ll let Lhotse influence your opinion of the hyperbolically brilliant Hilaree Nelson, and the meteoric hole she’s left in our culture. The overused ‘mountaineering mother’ angle is as detrimental as it is helpful on days like this, but Hilaree’s handling of these double standards – standards that absolutely fascinate me, I should add – has really stuck with me since working with her on this film’s tour, and while watching my phenomenal wife create, carry, and raise our one-year-old son through a pretty tumultuous maternity leave. See? Still managed to make it about me, didn’t I. We can’t help it.

Basically: Your identity is hugely defined by your Lhotse moments, not your cultural expectations, so try your best to keep them in sight.

THE ONE-WOMAN SHOW: SOLO

Lucy Hewson, Junior Account Director, ACM 

30s pitch: Tough by name, tough by nature – Jenny Tough is as tough as they come. Her film,  Solo, documents her goal to run across a mountain range on every continent, completely unsupported, completely by herself. It’s an awesome watch, and I got to see it in Bristol, at a screening fronted by Jenny herself but made up of an audience that was mainly women runners and outdoor enthusiasts. It was great to be in that room with them all. It felt quite special.

There are so many good soundbites from the movie, but a line from one of the contributors, endurance athlete Emily Chappell, really stood out to me as being super relevant to today’s IWD:

“We should be encouraging women, everyone, to be as safe and careful as they can, but also to go out and make mistakes. To have stuff go wrong. Because most of the time when stuff goes wrong, it’s not going to kill you. It’s going to give you a really bad experience that you will have to overcome. And then you will be stronger.”

Basically: You can do anything you want, with friends or solo. Getting out there and having the experience is what counts.