International Women’s Day in the Workplace

What is International Women’s Day and how can your organisation participate? You can find all the answers in our FAQ.  Scroll down to read more.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The day is also a call for gender parity. Gender equality focuses on making sure people of all genders have the same opportunities, whereas gender parity asks us to address what causes gender inequality in the first place and what actions we can take to create or sustain gender-inclusive workplaces. Many groups across the globe celebrate International Women’s Day and participate in activities to accelerate gender parity and equality.   

When is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day takes place annually on the 8th March.

How did International Women’s Day start?

Women’s rights advocates Clara Zetkin, Kate Duncker, Paula Thiede and others proposed that “a special Women’s day” be organised annually, after the Socialist Party of America successfully organised a Women’s Day in New York City in 1909, which demanded shorter working hours, better pay and the right for women to vote.  

The day continued to be observed by various countries and movements, all who were demanding equal rights for women, but it became an international event when the United Nations began celebrating it in 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8th as the UN day for women’s rights, which became what we now know as ‘International Women’s Day’.

Why does International Women’s Day exist?

International Women’s Day has consistently been used as a strategy to promote equal rights, including suffrage for women, since it was first observed in 1909. Since then we have made great strides towards gender equality, but there is still much we need to do to achieve gender parity in the workplace.

There are many issues women face in the workplace that may stop them from being as successful as their male counterparts. For example, while there are more women in work who perform job roles similar to their male colleagues, many of these women may not receive the same salary as their male counterparts, even if they’re doing the same job and their performance is exceptional. In 2019, women effectively worked “for free” from November 14th until the end of the year because of the gender pay gap. The Telegraph also reported that gender pay gap figures showed women are paid less than half than men at some of Britain’s Major companies.

But gender inequality doesn’t just effect the material conditions of female employees, but also the culture of their workplace. The ‘Still Just a Bit of Banter?’ report, by the Everyday Sexism Project and the Trades Union Congress, revealed that over half of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment while at work. 80% of these women did not feel comfortable reporting the harassment for a variety reasons, such as fearing that reporting the harassment would negatively effect their career, believing they wouldn’t be taken seriously if they reported it and shame and embarrassment.

International Women’s Day exists not only to celebrate the contributions women make in the workplace, but it’s also an opportunity to make workplaces more inclusive for women and address barriers to their success and well-being.

Why is International Women’s Day important? 

A 2017 report by the World Economic Forum said it could still take another 100 years before the global equality gap between men and women disappears entirely.

This poses a problem for everyone because equality is a socio-economic need, as women make up half of the world’s talent. If women are prevented from contributing and succeeding in the workplace, that means our economy will not grow and it won’t be as sustainable as it could be. For example, McKinsey and Company estimated that if more women were able to fully participate in paid work, and earn equal pay, that could add $28 trillion to the global gross domestic product (GDP). 

Research also shows that organisations who have more gender diversity also see improved productivity, better decision making, increased growth and innovation and happy employees and customers (Envato Tuts+). International Women’s Day is therefore an important because it is an opportunity to engage colleagues with the benefits of gender inclusion in the workplace, take action to achieve gender parity within your organisation and contribute to the success of the organisation as a whole.

What should businesses be doing for International Women’s Day?  

To celebrate International Women’s Day and support females colleagues during this event, businesses can:

  • Take action to make workplaces more gender equal e.g. reviewing policies to make sure they are as gender inclusive as possible.
  • Host webinars about International Women’s Day to celebrate the success of the women in your organisation, including highlighting female role models who have contributed to the success of the organisation.
  • Promote the visibility of female colleagues within the organisation by inviting them to share their experiences and successes at meetings, events or webinars.    
  • Share LGBT+ resources with your colleagues to deepen their understanding of what gender parity and equality is and what they can do to support it. Inclusive Employers have resources like this that can be accessed in the member’s area for free. 
  • Communicate with their Marketing and Comms team to plan how the organisation will promote International Women’s Day in an inclusive manner. Inclusive Employers members can refer to our Inclusive Communications guide for more guidance.

How can businesses plan for International Women’s Day?

To plan for International Women’s Day, organisations can:

  • Invite female colleagues, including any gender equality networks, to discuss the event and share any objectives that could be achieved through the campaign.
  • Prepare a project plan and assign tasks to members of your team to help promote awareness of International Women’s Day.
  • Request a copy of our International Women’s Day package for tips on what they may need to consider in their plans. Inclusive Employers members receive this resource for free as part of their membership. 
  • Inclusive Employers members can contact their account manager for more support and guidance.