With International Women’s Day events growing in popularity, we explore that if inclusion is the goal it takes more than a month to achieve.
International Women’s Day is right around the corner and organisations across the globe are planning the ways they want to celebrate.
Though the history of International Women’s Day can be traced back to New York City in the early 1900s to recognise Women’s achievements regardless of divisions, things change. In many cases, especially in corporate spaces, it seems as though International Women’s Day events have been co-opted to show how diversity helps a business’s bottom line.
So how do you avoid using International Women’s Day events to stoke the business case? Follow our 5-step guide and you’ll be an expert in no time.
It’s time to start planning intersectional events
As you’re planning your International Women’s Day event, ask yourself:
- Do these plans include all Women?
- Do some Women’s voices feature more heavily than others?
- Do the events allow some Women to speak for all Women?
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, your event is not intersectional.
Intersectionality is crucial when it comes to planning International Women’s Day events to make sure the event is inclusive. Historically, White Cis non-Disabled Women have been prioritised at these events and it’s high time that changed. Taking steps towards intersectionality can feel intimidating at first and event organisers must be careful not to assume they have the experience and ability to speak for all Women.
At the very least, your International Women’s Day events should be heavily researched to avoid them becoming tokenistic. Although, we always recommend working with a consultant to guide you through this process to ensure inclusivity from the outset.
2. It’s more than just a month: supporting Women requires sponsorship
International Women’s Day events are often at risk of being performative especially when organisations do not include all Women for the rest of the year. It’s therefore important to develop a calendar that recognises all Women beyond a designated day or month. Some low-lift interventions might be regular inclusion training or additional events highlighting certain groups of Women.
However, to truly make sure your organisation is not being performative we need to carve out ways to make Women’s experience more equitable.
In the UK, Women hold about ⅓ of leadership positions and it’s a similar story wherever you look across the globe. To tackle this, mentorship programmes for Women are becoming increasingly popular – we see this in law, finance, tech, etc. But when we understand what Women experience at work, it’s not hard to see that Women do not need mentorship. Mentorship programmes blame Women for the reason they are not successful rather than recognise that they are on an uneven playing field from the very beginning.
Instead, organisations should move to use sponsorship.
Sponsorship puts the responsibility for change on the organisation and the systems in place that position Women as ‘aggressive’ when they show assertiveness. It recognises that it is the system of sexism that encourages Women to leave or push them out before they can make it to the highest ranks of leadership.
3. If you are not paying Women equitably, don’t celebrate International Women’s Day.
It’s no secret that Women are paid less than Men globally since records began. Often companies congratulate themselves on the progress they have made and whilst progress should be applauded – it’s slow. Snail’s pace.
We challenge employers to look inwards at the conditions under which Women are expected to perform the same as Men under before congratulating their ‘equal pay measures’. In most cases, Women are paid less for the same work and have to make it stretch despite increasing living and childcare costs and to add to this, outside of work they take on a larger share of the domestic responsibilities. In 2024, we’re asking employers to interrogate how they can be pioneers for change.
If there haven’t been any transparent commitments to equal pay and vocal action plans shared by your organisation now is the time to start.
4. Is flexible working really flexible?
As we mentioned, Women are both underpaid at work and then go home to work a second shift for free. Women often shoulder the burden of housework and, regardless of what they are paid, are more likely to take on more caregiving responsibilities for children.
So, beyond hosting an International Women’s Day event, does your organisation consider these additional responsibilities and allow flexible working?
In the UK, employees are able to make a statutory flexible working request but this can be blocked for ‘business reasons’. This International Women’s Day, we’re challenging employers to be more flexible. Work with HR to develop flexible working policies that make flexible working requests more likely to be approved. Get senior leadership to show public support to encourage Women to apply.
If flexibility only exists when the organisation puts on an event…well then.
5. Consider ALL Women ALL year EVERY year.
International Women’s Day events are just the beginning. We’re calling on employers to commit to the ambitious work of DEI all year long, every day because this is what it takes to achieve inclusion and equity for all Women in your organisation.
For help planning your International Women’s Day event or planning for Women all year around, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.