Every year, March 8 is celebrated as the International Women’s Day all over the world. It is about acknowledging and celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women while highlighting the challenges they face in day-to-day life as well as in the professional environment. On this day, there is a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
This year, the International Women’s Day is being specially observed to highlight the challenges brought on by the global health pandemic and the campaign theme for 2021 is ‘Choose To Challenge’.
How did we get here?
Let’s take a peek at the history of International Women’s Day.
The International Women’s Day can be traced back to February 28, 1909, when the Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the garment workers’ strike in New York. The first official celebrations of International Women’s Day did happen in 1911, when women from several European countries such as; Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, participated in demonstrations. This was a protest where over a million women took to the streets to demand for the right to vote, and the right to hold public offices. Women also protested employment, sex discrimination and equal pay- challenges that still exists till today.
Another important demonstration in Europe, which occurred on March 8, 1917, saw women textile workers in St Petersburg (formerly known as Petrograd) taking over the streets, which later on grew to become the Russian Revolution. The day has been predominantly celebrated by communist countries and socialist movements until 1967, when the United Nations recognised the day and started celebrating it as the International Women’s Day we have come to know of today.
So, what is the significance of the day?
The International Women’s Day, is earmarked to celebrate womanhood, and recognise her achievements without regard to divisions – national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic, or political. It is also a day to acknowledge and make people aware of women’s rights and gender equality, parity, and put measures in place to accelerate women’s equality. Celebrations of International Women’s Day has now become a national holiday in some nations such as; Bulgaria and Romania, where it is observed as equivalent to Mother’s Day
However, it is still ignored in several countries.
How can you observe the international Women’s Day and contribute to the acceleration of gender parity?
Don’t take it for granted. Your voice and action matters. It can go a long way in making the world a more comfortable place for women irrespective, of whatever gender you may be.
Get your team involved in the official #ChooseToChallenge campaign:
This one is a fun and easy to do.
Gather the team, be it in the office (while observing covid-19 protocols) or host a virtual chatroom, to strike the #ChooseToChallenge pose by raising your hand. The official IWD website says, this pose signifies your “commitment to choose to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world.” While you’re at it, do consider submitting the picture as a pledge on the IWD site too!
If it will be challenging to get everyone in one place and time for the picture, you can always choose to do a collage instead.
Organise a (virtual or physical) lunch catchup to commemorate the day:
Lunch is always a great way to bond and catchup outside of the work setting. Why not take this time to get everyone to share their stories about the inspirational woman in their life, or a public figure they look up to?
Taking time out to thank the women in your team/organisation for their contribution in a speech would be nice too. Those seemingly small steps matter in the bigger push for gender equality at the workplace.
Show your support for women-owned small businesses:
Women have been in entrepreneurship for such a long time and we know how challenging it can be to run a business especially for women who have children to cater for or those who have lost the breadwinner of the family. Show your support for these women-owned businesses – be it by purchasing, giving them a referral or advertising them at no cost on your social media. A simple action goes a long way.
Host an online watch party for movies with strong women leads:
Who doesn’t love a movie with a strong woman lead? Whether they’re busting out their best fight moves like in the 2000’s hit Charlie’s Angels, venturing into a war to save mankind (Wonder Woman), or breaking stereotypes (Legally Blonde), there’s something we can learn from every character.
With the likes of Netflix Party and Rave, or even the screen share option on your video call application, it’s time to bring out the snacks and hit play. You can surf the internet for more options.
Raise funds for a women’s charity:
It doesn’t have to be local. There are many charities in your country and around the world that could do with some funds to support women in all areas, especially poverty and education. Be a part of one.
Call for a review of your internal D&I policies
This is long-term. While the above activities help drive in the importance of uplifting women, what is most crucial is advocating a mindset change.
As a team lead or a member of a team, you play a big role in this – and you can do your part by pushing for leadership buy-in regarding more flexible work policies that cater to parental needs and dedicated leave structures, among others.
As an organisational leader, you can do your part in pushing for more women in leadership positions and the C-suite, and better pay structures to ensure gender pay equity in the organisation. While gender parity is not expected to be achieved so soon, you can still do your part in taking the world in that direction.
Remember to challenge in words and in deeds because a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all #ChooseToChallenge.