Connected Culture

How People Teams can Best Recognize International Women’s Day in 2024

International Women’s Day on March 8th is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. While it’s a day to celebrate progress, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the path forward for women in society in general and specifically in the workplace. HR and Internal Communications professionals play a pivotal role in advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within your organization. Recognizing International Women’s Day is not just about a single day of acknowledgment but about reinforcing your company’s commitment to these values year-round.

 

The history of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day originated in 1910 when Clara Zetkin proposed the idea at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland to advocate for women’s rights to work, vote, and end discrimination. Shortly after, 140 women lost their lives in the Triangle Fire in New York City. The tragedy drew scrutiny on working conditions in the U.S. that became a focus of future International Women’s Day events.

Recognition of International Women’s day continued to expand across Europe. Over the decades, the day became globally recognized, especially after the United Nations began celebrating it in 1975. Today, International Women’s Day is observed worldwide on March 8th, serving as a platform to highlight the achievements and ongoing struggles for women’s rights and gender equality, marked by various events and initiatives addressing specific issues facing women globally.

 

Why it’s important

There’s meaningful progress to celebrate on International Women’s Day. In the U.S., more women are in the workforce and graduating college than ever before. Women now represent 51% of the college-educated workforce in the United States, and have dramatically increased their presence in the 10 highest-paying jobs. The number of women in VP, SVP, and C-suite roles has grown since 2015. More young women are placing importance on their career, and flexibility introduced during the pandemic has enabled some women to stay in their jobs or avoid going part-time.

Amidst celebration, it’s also important to use this day to reflect on further opportunities for progress, especially in the workplace. While more women are being promoted to leadership roles, 87 women for every 100 men are promoted from entry level to manager positions. Evaluating company processes to ensure equal opportunities at the earliest promotion stages are critical to ensuring women maintain the progress of representation that has been earned in more senior levels. While remote work and flexibility has enabled more women to return to and stay in the workforce, Return-to-Office mandates that lack flexibility threaten that progress and can lead to women looking for new jobs that may come at the expense of titles or pay. And speaking of pay, there remains opportunity for greater pay transparency. Among Russell 1000 companies, only 14% reported their adjusted women-to-men pay ratio that measures their gender pay gap controlling for variables such as position and location. Only 32% disclosed even conducting an analysis.

 

How you can celebrate

Start by familiarizing yourself with the challenges women face in the workplace. We’ve highlighted some key challenges above, but this McKinsey report is another great read. Don’t forget to consider how intersectionality can impact a woman’s experience in the workplace

Next, plan your internal communications. You should send a company-wide communication recognizing the day and women at your company. Be sure to include the schedule and details of any additional events or programming you have planned for IWD or Women’s History Month. Offer resources to educate employees about the challenges women face in the workplace. Here’s an Internal Comms template to get you started! Before you start writing, reflect on how the content and tone of the communication may be received by employees. Try to ensure the tone of the message reflects your company culture. A great way to do this is to bring women together around the project which could be done through an existing employee resource group or could be just the point to spark the creation of one!

As supplemental communications, consider spotlighting women at your company in leadership positions with short interviews about their career paths.

Empower your managers. While recognition from leadership is important, recognition from colleagues with whom you work daily can feel more genuine. Consider sending manager-specific communications ahead of International Women’s Day with resources and suggestions about how they can consider recognizing the day for their teams. Cleary’s Journeys product makes it easy to automate scheduled communications and tasks to any audience at your company.

If you have an Employee Recognition platform, encourage employees to leverage that to thank and recognize women at your organization for their contributions. 

If you don’t have one already, start an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for Women-Identifying employees at your company.

Host a talk or workshop led by female voices. Be sure to involve or coordinate with your Women’s ERG as they may be leading similar events.

Long-term efforts

International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to evaluate your organization’s policies, operations, and culture:

  • Consider your company’s policies. Are they inclusive of all employee groups? For example, do you allow remote work or flexible working hours to better support women and all parents with child-care responsibilities? Do you have a robust parental leave policy in place? Have you considered expanding your benefits program with women in mind to include support for egg freezing or fertility treatments? 
  • Commit to salary equity. Conduct an adjusted pay-gap analysis to review if men and women in the same roles, locations, and experience levels are being paid fairly. 
  • Reflect on your meetings and other coworker interactions. Do women speak up and offer their opinions in meetings? Are they frequently interrupted? Do you witness microaggressions? Give feedback to people exhibiting these behaviors. 
  • Evaluate feedback and review mechanisms. Are women given equal opportunities for professional development, promotions, and pay raises? Are they given feedback fairly, using unbiased language?
  • Review your recruiting and hiring processes. Are they optimized to attract diverse applicants? Have you done all you can to remove bias from the interview process?

 

Celebrate this International Women’s Day, but keep your sustained, long-term efforts to build an inclusive company culture top-of-mind. Those efforts are what will truly continue to create meaningful progress and great places to work for all.

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