Every year on March 8, people from all over the world celebrate International Women’s Day. Today, we observe women's social, political, economic, and cultural achievements and reflect on how far we’ve come in the struggle for a gender-equal world. It’s also a time to recognize how much further we must go to reach true equity and inclusion.
In this article, we explain the origins of International Women’s Day and share ideas on what companies can do to embrace equity – not just on March 8, but every day.
A year later, at the International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, International Women’s Day was officially established to honor the women's rights movement and to build support for universal suffrage.
The impact of the Copenhagen initiative could be seen globally: International Women's Day was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. International Women's Day also became a way to protest World War I. In 1917, women in Russia chose to strike for "Bread and Peace,” which eventually led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II and granted women the right to vote. All over Europe, women continued to hold rallies to protest the war or to demonstrate solidarity with other activists.
In 1975, the United Nations formally recognized March 8 as the official date of International Women's Day and invited member states to join in celebrating the day. The United Nations has assigned a theme to every International Women’s Day for the past few years. This year’s theme is #DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.
Take action not just on International Women’s Day, but everyday
It’s not enough to celebrate and uplift women in the workplace on March 8th – we need to take action every day to build a truly equitable and inclusive world. At Culture Amp, we believe true progress begins with committing to impactful DEI action.
Below, we share a few examples of meaningful action you can take to foster a more gender-equitable world of work:
Support working mothers’ return to work
While providing generous maternity leave is a good start, this alone isn’t enough to make women feel supported at work. After all, there’s a reason why up to 43% of American mothers leave their careers or off-ramp for a period of time after having a baby.
There are many ways to create a more supportive culture for caregivers in your company. For example, you can design a ramp-up plan for returning mothers, offer flexible or part-time scheduling options, or build a community where mothers and other caregivers can support one another. Culture Amp has Camp Carebears, an employee resource group dedicated to developing a supportive community for employees navigating the unique challenges of parenting and caregiving.
Another tactic you can consider is introducing salary transparency. While this is a tricky initiative to navigate and isn’t necessarily the end-all-be-all answer, it can be a big step toward pay equity.
Encourage equal leadership and board representation
While the proportion of women in leadership has increased over time, the global share of women in senior leadership across public and private sectors is only 33%, according to the 2022 Global Gender Gap Report.
Diversity in leadership matters, but real change requires a commitment to action. It’s easy and instinctive (i.e., similar-to-me-bias) for white male leaders to continue to promote and hire other white men. That’s why gender equity requires fighting the urge to stick with what’s familiar and intentionally and transparently setting goals around equal representation – especially at the senior leadership level.
At the end of the day, every organization and culture is unique, which is why it’s so important to collect feedback from your employees. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating truly diverse and inclusive workplaces. Identifying the most impactful area of opportunity requires asking women at your workplace what they most struggle with and where they want to see improvements.
One great, data-backed way to achieve this is to collect feedback from employees through employee surveys. By tracking how employee sentiment changes over time, you’ll recognize where people need more support and see whether your initiatives are helping to move the needle. DEI-specific surveys can be a potent tool for strategically improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
We also highly recommend asking for and collecting demographic information, as this data is invaluable for allowing you to drill down and discover disparities in the employee experience across groups (e.g., men vs. women, race and ethnicity, disability status).
How to celebrate International Women’s Day at work
Many organizations have a long way to go before they achieve gender equity. Even if you aren’t where you want to be, it’s worth taking the time to acknowledge International Women’s Day and what it represents. Below are a few ideas on how to show support for this holiday at your company:
Celebrate at work. If you have ample time to plan, create a whole day of programming around International Women’s Day. Bring in speakers to address critical gender-focused issues, sponsor your employees to attend events, or have your CEO give a presentation about what your company is doing to uplift women in the workplace.
Use existing groups to support women. There are also ways to support women and create a sense of belonging by tapping into the built-in subcultures at work. One popular approach is to start an employee resource group (ERG). On top of Camp Carebears, which we mentioned above, Culture Amp also has an ERG called Women of Culture Amp (WoCA), created to amplify women's voices in our company.
Educate yourself. It’s not the women's job to educate others in the organization about their struggles. At the end of the day, there are countless resources out there that you can use to learn about the challenges women face at work. As you embark on this journey, be sure to prioritize intersectionality, as the experience of a White woman is very different from that of a Black or disabled woman.
The road to gender equity is a long one. However, we should be proud of our progress so far and continue to look for ways that we – as both companies and individuals – can help build a better, more equitable, and inclusive world of work. Celebrating International Women's Day is a small step, but every step matters. The important part is to go beyond performativity and embrace the meaningful actions that actually lead to change.
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