International Women's Day - Meet Joanna

My name is Joanna, I’m 24 years old, and I’m currently living in Nottingham and working for 200 Degrees.

I’m a supervisor at 200 and have been working for the company for seven months. I’ve always worked in the coffee industry, whether for a small independent or a larger business. Coffee shops are places with such lovely atmospheres which can make a difference to a person’s day. A simple coffee can make someone smile, which is why it’s always felt like the right environment for me, as I love to be able to make someone’s day better.

As a queer woman, I’ve realised that biases and discrimination are things many people are forced to deal with regularly. In many ways, I am thankful for the privileges I have, such as being a cis-gendered white woman living in Britain. However, both my sexuality and my gender have sadly presented me with some difficulties throughout my life. I am often underestimated as a woman, with tasks being passed on to males around me who are deemed stronger or more competent. My sexuality has led to me being catcalled, sexualised, and verbally abused. On many occasions, some customers in previous jobs informed me that they disagreed with my sexuality to my face. It has often led me to choose to keep my sexuality a secret, as these past incidents have left me anxious about how some colleagues or customers may react. I’ve struggled hugely with depression and anxiety through my early twenties, having to come into work and pretend to be coping when life was consuming me in reality. There are such enormous expectations for women to put on a brave face and carry on with a smile, but sometimes even a smile can be out of reach.

Throughout history, so many incredible women have achieved remarkable things in fighting for women’s rights and equality for all. Women, including trans and non-binary persons, deserve recognition for the sacrifices they have made over time, which have brought significant progress for all women in the long term. Though we are still far from the gender equality we strive for, we as women have made such a huge progression, and we mustn’t stop now. International Women’s Day may only be one day, but we must continue to follow in the footsteps of women before us every day of the year. They began a vital journey that must be continually remembered and honoured by women of today.

Every single person on this planet, no matter their gender, can make small changes in the fight for equality. Whether that be learning to treat a female colleague as your equal or petitioning against the gender pay gap – every action, big or small, can slowly change women's lives across the world. We must remember that changes come with time, and though it may take many more years for actual progress to be made, each action builds up to create long term change.

I am hugely inspired by the Victorian poet Emily Dickinson. She had a passion, which society deemed wrong, as women were not supposed to involve themselves in poetry or literature. However, she kept writing for years and years – renowned as some of the best poetry works of all time. She wrote poetry, not for fame or money but simply because she most enjoyed it. Her poems have only become renowned since her death, so she sadly never knew the significant impact of her words upon feminism or the world. She taught me never to give up because of my gender and to certainly never let being a woman in society hold me back, but rather to keep me going and try harder to prove others wrong. Women have more strength, courage, and knowledge than the world could know, and we must strive to continue the legacy that women like Emily Dickinson have left for us.