The Southbank Centre has announced the sixth edition of WOW – Women of the World Festival.

The festival opens on International Women’s Day on 8 March and will run through 13 March. WOW brings together thousands of women and girls alongside politicians, business leaders, artists, activists and refugees to discuss gender equality and how women can drive solutions to close the gender gap.

“I founded WOW to ensure that there was a high-profile cultural space where women’s stories could be shared and celebrated,” said Jude Kelly, Southbank Centre artistic director. “Despite great strides made by the international women’s rights movement in 2015/2016, it is male voices and stories that continue to dominate our popular culture.

“WOW 2016 will add its considerable voice towards fighting for gender equality, including, I’m pleased to announce, via the creation of the new Women in the Creative Industries Awards.”

Speakers announced include Inga Beale (CEO of Lloyds), London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan MP, musician Annie Lennox, Women’s Equality Party founder Sandi Toksvig, comedians Shazia Mirza, Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe and Sue Perkins, author Caitlin Moran, playwright Eve Ensler, singer Charlotte Church, BBC Radio 1 DJ Gemma Cairney and many more.

Wednesday 8 March has been announced as ‘Women and Creative Industries Day’, and will see Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, speak. WOW Business Day will take place 11 March.

The WOW – Women in the Creative Industries Awards will recognise 12 awards recognising the excellence, bravery and originality of women who work in theatre, dance, literature, heritage, digital, contemporary music, film, TV, visual arts, architecture, classical music and opera.

WOW has grown in its six years to become one of the largest women’s festivals in the world, with WOW meetings happening across five continents and one million people involved.

The festival is sponsored and supported by Bloomberg, AIG, UBS and the Chartered Institute of Insurers.