For over a century, International Women’s Day has been celebrated around the world. Every year on March 8th, people come together to recognize women’s achievements, and further advocate for women’s rights and gender equality.
In the last year, there were many great moments of recognition:
Countries with female leaders – such as New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan – received global praise for their quick and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kamala Harris became the first female, Black, and South Asian Vice President of the United States.
And Scotland became the first country to allow free and universal access to menstrual products.
Although these examples showcase how far we’ve come in creating a gender-balanced world, we still have a long way to go. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, gender parity will not be attained for another 99.5 years if we continue at the current rate of change.
That’s why it’s imperative that our world and company leaders continue to not only bring in a more diverse team to support them but to also inspire change within their communities.
To best prepare your company for the International Women’s Day celebrations, here is the history behind this day of recognition and some ways your organization can move toward gender parity, including 3 free courses from UNITAR and the Spark to empower and educate your teams.
Where was International Women’s Day first celebrated?
In 1909, the Socialist Party of American held the first National Woman’s Day to commemorate a garment worker’s strike in New York City, where 15,000 women marched through the city demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights.
The following year, International Women’s Day was created at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen to celebrate women’s rights in every country and to use the day to actively campaign for change. It was honored for the first time in 1911, where more than one million men and women attended rallies in support of women’s rights and universal suffrage.
In 1975, the United Nations declared March 9th as International Women’s Day, making it an official holiday. Since then, the holiday has been celebrated around the world.
What is the theme for International Women’s Day 2021?
For the past few years, the United Nations has created themes to better guide the discussions around shaping a more equal future. This year’s theme is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world. The theme focuses on how we can build a gender-balanced world amid the Covid pandemic.
One of the strongest ways we can achieve gender balance is through choosing to challenge and calling out gender biases and inequality. That’s why this year’s social media campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge.
You’re able to learn and share what your company is doing using the hashtags #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021.
How companies can celebrate International Women’s Day at work
1. Make it a learning opportunity for your team
In solidarity with this year’s theme, we partnered with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and other leading experts to develop a collection of free courses to empower and educate your teams. Here are three free courses that you can quickly import and deploy to your employees today:
Free International Women’s Day Course #1 – Getting Your Voice Heard
Assertiveness is a core leadership skill – one that many women in lack. Alison Theaker, CEO and Founder of business coaching business, The Spark, dissects how women in the workplace can come across as assertive and not aggressive.
Free International Women’s Day Course #2 – Women’s Entrepreneurship
UNITAR introduces the challenges of female entrepreneurship and how to overcome these unique gendered constraints.
Free International Women’s Day Course #3 – The Importance of Women in Disasters
UNITAR explores how disasters disproportionately affect women and how having more women in leadership for Disaster Risk Reduction improves outcomes for all.
Thank you to our fantastic partners who have contributed to this courseware, including UNITAR and The Spark.
2. Show your support on social media using #ChooseToChallenge
A simple way to show recognition, support, and spread awareness of International Women’s Day is to take part in the #ChooseToChallenge social media campaign. Take a photo of yourself raising your hand and share it on your preferred platforms using #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021 to show your commitment to calling out gender biases and inequality.
3. Include people of all genders in the conversation
Some people might assume that International Women’s Day is only for women. In reality, we need everyone regardless of gender to become equal advocates for human rights.
This could look like deliberately bringing men into gender inclusion programs – as organisations who do so have a 96 per cent adoption rate compared to only 30 per cent of companies where men were not engaged – or increasing the number of female board members and senior leaders, which has been shown to increase profit margins, improve problem solving and creating a more resilient, innovative and adaptable environment.
4. Reevaluate policies and programs
According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2020 report, women have been disproportionately affected by the Covid pandemic. Women are more likely to have been laid off, furloughed, or have had to leave the workforce to care for their children or dependents.
That’s why creating an inclusive and supportive work environment is essential to achieving gender equality at work. As a starting point, consider reevaluating policies and programs regarding:
- Diversity and inclusion training for internal recruitment
- Equitable parental leave for both mothers and fathers
- Support for women returning to work after parental leave
- Flexible work days and hours, where possible
- Leadership programs, mentorship, or coaching opportunities for women
- Compensation and salary equality
5. Host or attend an online panel
Sharing knowledge is the key to accelerating equal rights. Encourage your team to either put together a virtual event to celebrate International Women’s Day or provide them with some online panel suggestions that discuss gender gaps or share actionable insights relevant to their particular industry.
The International Women’s Day website has listed some great events. Click here to view events in your time zone.
6. Donate to charity
As a company, consider making a donation to women’s organizations that your team cares about. You can also tie in a challenge with your team, such as running a 10K, so that they can fundraise more donation money with their networks.