BlogInternational Women's Day: Inspiring women in the health & wellness Industry

International Women's Day: Inspiring women in the health & wellness Industry

9 min read

Emily Ledger

It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) - a day dedicated to celebrating the diverse and incredible contributions of women throughout history and continuing the fight toward gender equity and inclusion. As part of our Wellness Wednesday series, and in celebration of IWD 2024, this article highlights the work of some of the most inspiring women working in the health & wellness industry today. 

But first, let’s learn a little more about the history of this global event: What is International Women’s Day?

Contents

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day dates back to the early 1900s - a time when most women were not entitled to the same opportunities as men. During this period, activism by women and supporters of gender equality was on the rise, leading to serious debate around women’s place in society. In 1909, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on February 28; the event continued to be celebrated on the last Sunday of February for the next four years.

At the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910, Clara Zetkin - the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany - proposed a universally celebrated International Women’s Day on which each country celebrates, giving women all over the world the opportunity to press for their demands. The conference attendees, which included over 100 women from 17 countries, unanimously approved the motion. The first International Women’s Day was celebrated by Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March 1911.

Since then, IWD has been held annually, allowing anyone to participate through a wide variety of activities. Importantly, as the International Women’s Day website highlights:

“IWD isn't country, group or organization specific. It's a day of collective global activism and celebration that belongs to all those committed to forging women's equality.”

When did it become a truly global movement?

During WWI, women in Russia observed their first International Women's Day on 8 March 1913. In 1915, over 1300 women from more than 12 countries gathered in The Hague for the International Women's Congress - the beginning of an international women's peace movement to protest against the war and promote peace. Slowly, over the next few decades, more nations joined in the celebrations and the recognition of women's rights.

Finally, in 1975 (the first International Women's Year), the United Nations officially recognised 8 March as International Women's Day, and it has been celebrated globally ever since.

How is International Women's Day celebrated?

International Women's Day is typically marked with rallies, conferences, and cultural events celebrating women's achievements and raising awareness for gender equality. Many organisations also use this day to launch campaigns and initiatives to promote women's rights and empowerment. In some countries, it is a national holiday, while in others, it is simply an observance or awareness day.

What is the theme for International Women's Day 2024?

The theme for International Women's Day 2024 is #InspireInclusion: envisioning a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world characterised by diversity, equity, and inclusivity, where individual differences are valued and celebrated.

Inspiring women in the health  and wellness industry

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2024, we’re profiling some of the significant women in the UK health & wellness industry - a sector that is being increasingly dominated by women entrepreneurs, CEOs, medical professionals and more.

Melissa Snover

Melissa Snover - Founder and CEO of Nourished

Entrepreneur and registered nutritionist Melissa Snover came up with the idea for Nourished -  a tailor-made nutrition brand - in 2018 as a more convenient alternative to taking several daily supplements. Snover wanted a new way to experience nutrition - a way that acknowledges each person’s unique health and wellness needs. And so, Nourished’s unique, 3D-printed vitamin “stacks” were born.  

But Nourished wasn’t Snover’s first venture. Having started her first business at the age of 23, Melissa became a registered nutritionist with a passion for health, wellness, and supporting other women in business. 

Since its launch, Nourished has expanded to new product offerings, launched into the European market and was honoured with the ‘King’s Award for Enterprise’ in the ‘Innovation’ category in 2023. Nourished also supports global charity, Vitamin Angels, in helping improve health and nutrition for under-served pregnant women and young children worldwide.

Lucy Lettice Cohen

Lucy Lettice Cohen and Claire Lettice - Founders of &SISTERS by Mooncup®

Mother and daughter team, Claire Lettice and Lucy Lettice Cohen entered the health & wellness world back in 2017 with their period care venture &SISTERS to take on plastic and irritant-ridden menstrual products. By championing organic and biodegradable ingredients, they certainly made a splash, not only by providing a high-quality alternative to mainstream tampons and pads but also by campaigning for more funding and better care in menstrual health. 

Fast forward to today, the sustainable menstrual health brand has gone from strength to strength, from expanding its product offering to becoming a B Corp in 2022 and acquiring one of the early pioneers in sustainable period products, Mooncup.

As co-founder and CEO of &SISTERS by Mooncup®, Lucy is passionate about taking action against period poverty and environmental pollution. Her mother and co-founder Claire counts among her heroes another inspiring woman in health and wellness - Dame Anita Roddick, who paved the way for vegan and sustainable products with the Body Shop in the 1970s.

Hannah Samano

Hannah Samano - Founder and CEO of Unfabled

Hannah Samano is the founder and CEO of Unfabled, a one-stop shop for all things health and wellness with a special focus on sustainable, non-toxic products. Originally launched as a home for high-quality menstrual care products, Unfabled has since expanded into beauty, supplements, and sexual wellness with a focus on women’s health.

Unfabled has become not only a platform for discovering new health and wellness products (that are personally tested by the team) but also a hub for medically validated guides and content. As its website aptly claims: Unfabled is “a safe and inclusive space for everyone to learn and discover, regardless of gender – men, that includes you, too!”

But that wasn’t enough for Hannah, who is passionate about finding ways to close the gender health gap - a problem that has seen women experience different outcomes in healthcare compared to men. Unfabled has now raised £1.57 million in funding to crack the women’s health and wellness market; and with over 300,000 people using Unfabled as a source of products for a wide range of conditions and symptoms, it seems to be going well. The next step in their plans is to expand the Unfabled platform and further develop the company’s in-house data science.

Melissa Sturgess

Melissa Sturgess - CEO of Ananda Developments, and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Industry Council Research Committee

We conclude our list of influential women in the health and wellness industry with Melissa Sturgess, who not only sits as the Vice Chair of the Cannabis Industry Council research committee but is also the CEO of Ananda Developments Plc. As such, Sturgess is extremely influential in the world of medical cannabis - an industry in which women are not always represented equally.

Melissa Sturgess is one of the many amazing women in the cannabis industry who show us the important contributions women have to make in this space. Through her work with the Cannabis Industry Council - a collective that brings together members from every corner of the cannabis industry - Sturgess advocates for the importance of research in the medical cannabis and hemp CBD sectors.

With more than 20 years of experience as a director of UK and Australian Stock Exchange quoted companies, Melissa Sturgess is a powerhouse of business. Following a trip to Israel in 2017 to review the country’s medical cannabis research, she decided to enter the cannabis industry herself. Soon after, she co-founded Ananda Developments Plc with the aim of becoming a leading provider of cannabinoid-based medicines.

International Women's Day FAQ's

When did the International Women's Day celebration first take place?

The USA led the way with the first "National Women's Day" on 28 February 1909, celebrating the 1908 garment workers' strike in New York. More than 20,000 women rallied against gender-split working conditions, shedding light on the challenges faced by predominantly immigrant women working in hazardous situations.

This gained much attention in Europe, with the "International Women's Day" celebration starting on 19 March 1911, when Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland joined the USA.

When did it become a truly global movement?

During WWI, women in Russia observed their first International Women's Day on 8 March 1913. In 1915, over 1300 women from more than 12 countries gathered in The Hague for the International Women's Congress - the beginning of an international women's peace movement to protest against the war and promote peace. Slowly, over the next few decades, more nations joined in the celebrations and the recognition of women's rights.

Finally, in 1975 (the first International Women's Year), the United Nations officially recognised 8 March as International Women's Day, and it has been celebrated globally ever since.

How is International Women's Day celebrated?

International Women's Day is typically marked with rallies, conferences, and cultural events celebrating women's achievements and raising awareness for gender equality. Many organisations also use this day to launch campaigns and initiatives to promote women's rights and empowerment. In some countries, it is a national holiday, while in others, it is simply an observance or awareness day.

What is the theme for International Women's Day 2024?

The theme for International Women's Day 2024 is #InspireInclusion: envisioning a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world characterised by diversity, equity, and inclusivity, where individual differences are valued and celebrated.

What to do for International Women's Day

If these inspiring women have motivated you to get involved in International Women’s Day 2024, there are plenty of ways to do so. Like every year, the IWD will be celebrated with events all over the world, including community gatherings, conferences, awards, and much more. 

Events may be organised by charities, businesses, or local communities that want to come together to celebrate women everywhere. Take a look at the International Women’s Day website’s event finder to locate an event near you!

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Emily, an accomplished content writer with a specialisation in cannabis and alternative health, leverages her five years in the sector to enhance education and diminish stigma around medicinal cannabis use.

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Further reading

Trust your gut: IBS and medical cannabis

Cannabis has been used as a therapeutic for thousands of years, with evidence of its use in the treatment of gastrointestinal issues dating back centuries. Anecdotal evidence suggests that medical cannabis may be useful in the treatment of Intestinal Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and a growing body of clinical and observational evidence appears to support this potential.

Emily Ledger