08 March 2023

The theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) this year is ‘Embrace Equity’. Even though the words ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ are often used interchangeably, it is important to distinguish the two.

Equality is when each person is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognises that everyone has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities to each person needed to reach an equal outcome.

Equity allows us to rebalance social structures, making room for everyone to thrive. When we progress from equality to equity, we ensure women from all backgrounds and circumstance are accounted for. This in turn, creates an inclusive and more diverse world.

We asked two leaders, who are Digital Isle of Man Board Members, their thoughts about IWD and this year’s topic of equity.

Joanne Thurlow

With 30+ years in the Tech industry, Joanne Thurlow has extensive knowledge of today's IT industry and innovations enabling digital transformation on a global level. Joanne’s primary focus is on digital business transformation through tech-enabled sustainable solutions.

The Isle of Man became Joanne’s home in 2021. Originating from Canada, Joanne has lived and worked internationally for/with organisations of all sizes on a global level. For the past decade, she has worked for Siemens Energy Solutions as Global Head of IT driving large scale transformation projects across a global organisation.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
IWD gives us an opportunity on the global stage, to recognise the women of the world. For myself, it has come to symbolise the camaraderie of women sharing their inspirations, successes and challenges. It helps us realise that we are not alone in what we struggle with, and there is support in unity.

Do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day and if so why?
At a societal level we still have a way to go to embedding true diversity. Hence the need to raise awareness for underrepresented groups. With this in mind, IWD raises the profile of women around the world, especially those that live in cultures which demean them. Continuing to raise that awareness is a first step to creating the needed changes.

What progress have you seen on gender equity in your life and work?
Being a woman in tech, my journey has been one of continually navigating gender bias. Few women were in this field when I started my career. Fortunately, that is changing, but we are still underrepresented. Having lived and work across many cultures, I have seen some which are very equal (i.e. Nordics) and many which are still not. Overall, I am encouraged to see how much progress has been made.

As a leader, are you discussing the diversity of your organisation with management teams and asking what you need to do to embrace gender equity in its entirety?
My experience has been that this is very much a topic at the heart of many organisations. There is a conscious shift in general thinking within organisations to embrace gender equality, but there is much to do on the topic of equity. Moving from equality to equity is the next step on the journey to true diversity. That step is only beginning to be taken in some organisations.

Do you believe innovation and embracing new technologies can accelerate progress towards a gender equal future, a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive?
Yes I do believe it can accelerate progress. However, we need to take care that subconscious biases do not creep into the design of technologies. Some fitness trackers are a simple example of this. Many now have features that are specific to women, whereas in the early iterations they did not. AI applications are at the forefront right now and it will be interesting to see how these apps evolve to be inclusive.

What bold ideas and transformative leadership do you think is required to forge a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination?
We need to become more aware of each person’s strengths, weaknesses and potential – their equity. Aligning their strengths, roles and responsibilities through transparency around their personality/vocational types helps each person bring their best to the team. My approach has historically been to encourage team members to take personality assessments, including input from others. This enabled them to understand themselves and gain insight into how others see them. The team members worked alongside each other, providing their best strengths if needed. For example, some team members were well suited to giving presentations, while others were more inclined to detail work etc. This ‘balancing through transparency and self-awareness’ ensured each brought their best to their roles.

Mike Bromwich

As a technologist and entrepreneur, Mike has launched, operated and exited several innovative businesses over the course of his 30+ year career. He was raised and educated on the Isle of Man, and following his degree in Information Engineering at the University of Lancaster, he returned to the Island to co-found Advanced Systems – subsequently to become Domicilium.

Mike is an expert in software and systems development, telecommunications and networking. He is a long-standing non-executive director and advisor for a number of technology businesses on the Island and overseas, and is CEO of Stacuity – a provider of software and platforms for telecoms and IoT.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I am lucky to have a number of exceptional women in my life – family, friends and colleagues. I am in awe of who they are and what they achieve – but too often I take them for granted. International Women’s Day is important since it reminds me to be grateful – and to tell them so!

Do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day and if so why?
Although great strides have been made, there is still work to do – particularly in certain sectors, regions or roles. Celebrating International Women’s Day is therefore important to recognise and applaud the progress that has been made, to acknowledge the work of those who are making a difference, but also as a reminder that there is still work to do.

What progress have you seen on gender equity in your life and work?
When I started in my IT career 30 years ago, I had few female colleagues – and the board was very predominantly male. Fortunately, my fellow board members were progressive at the time – and looked beyond gender and instead, looked for aptitude, attitude and ambition – as a result, the balance has consistently shifted year-by-year to a point where it has now been reversed. This hasn’t been a conscious goal or positive discrimination – just recognition of capabilities and character rather than gender.

Do you believe innovation and embracing new technologies can accelerate progress towards a gender equal future, a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive?
As the world has embraced remote working, this has brought the additional benefit of flexibility. We can now all participate and contribute in ways which suit our circumstances, background, personal and family responsibilities. This has brought opportunities to many women which would not have been practical previously – by allowing them to balance their family and professional commitments to suit their circumstances and preferences.

What bold ideas and transformative leadership do you think is required to forge a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination?
We must consider equity to be natural, not needing to be forced or specifically encouraged. We must see everyone for their skills, character and ambitions. We must be careful to avoid unintentional constraints and subconscious biases when we form and present opportunities.


Celebrating International Women's Day provides an opportunity to improve our collective awareness of women's history and increase our understanding of bias, discrimination, and inequity. It provides an opportunity for leaders like Joanne and Mike to share their thoughts on the topic and for discussions to take place which can lead to positive changes. Here's to #embracingequity 365 days of the year.