International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on 8 March to honor the achievements of women and raise awareness about gender equality issues. The history of IWD dates back to the early 1900s when women in the United States and Europe were fighting for their rights, including the right to vote, work, and hold public office.
Over the years, IWD has highlighted women’s issues, including equal pay, reproductive rights, and violence against women. The United Nations recognized IWD in 1975 and declared a different theme for each year’s celebration. IWD has gained increased global recognition in recent years, with events and campaigns held worldwide to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Today, IWD is a global holiday with major events in numerous cities. The holiday originated from a women’s suffrage march in London in 1914, where Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested. In 2001, the IWD platform was created to promote the day and celebrate women’s achievements while continuing to push for gender equality. In 2011, Barack Obama declared March as Women’s History Month, citing women’s access to opportunities’ positive impact on societies, economies, and governments.
Embracing Equity In 2023
Picture a world where gender equality exists without bias, stereotypes, or discrimination, a world that values and celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusivity. This world can be created if everyone works together to obtain women’s equality. It can be achieved by celebrating women’s accomplishments, raising awareness about discrimination, and taking action to bring about gender parity.
The theme for IWD 2023 is “Digital Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”. Its goal is to highlight the potential of digital technologies to advance women’s rights and empower women and girls while also addressing the challenges and risks associated with technology and gender inequality.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of societies worldwide, but it has also exposed and exacerbated existing gender disparities in access to and use of digital technologies. The 2023 IWD seeks to promote digital innovation and technology to close the gender digital divide, eliminate online violence against women, and support women’s leadership in the digital economy.
The United Nations and other international organizations, as well as governments, civil society, and the private sector, are encouraged to participate in IWD 2023 by organizing events, campaigns, and other activities that raise awareness about the role of digital innovation and technology in advancing gender equality.
Equality vs Equity: Why It Matters
Equality is about treating everyone equally, while equity is about treating people fairly by considering their unique circumstances and providing them with the support they need to overcome systemic barriers. Susan K. Gardner, the Dean of the College of Education at Oregon State University, gives a perfect example: “Equality is giving everyone a shoe. Equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.”
Politically speaking, democracy is built on the principle of equality, where everyone has the same opportunities to achieve happiness. However, there is a growing debate on whether equity is a better principle for social progress than equality. Equity acknowledges that not everyone starts at the same point in life, and some face more obstacles than others. Historical inequalities have marginalized groups such as women, people of color, disabled people, the economically disadvantaged, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Equity aims to address systemic and structural barriers that prevent people from thriving.
“Equality is giving everyone a shoe. Equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.”Susan K. Gardner
With the application of equity to women’s advancement, equality ensures that all genders have the same opportunities, like a woman’s right to vote. However, women often need more than just equal opportunities to succeed. They require support and promotion in all areas of life, including education, work, and health. Women are diverse, and policies that benefit one group may not help others due to historical or current inequalities. Thus, a shift from gender equality to gender equity is necessary for meaningful progress.
Advocates of equality-focused solutions for social problems may support impartiality and believe that services and policies should be the same for everyone. On the other hand, equity-focused solutions consider the unique experiences of individuals and communities and adjust policies and services accordingly. Equity is a more sustainable and long-term solution that addresses imbalances in social systems over time. It involves continually working towards balancing the scales and creating a fairer society.
Promoting Equity In The Workplace
This year’s IWD theme is about encouraging others to #EmbraceEquity. It is important to take action and promote equity and gender equality in the workplace, as this may positively impact employee morale, productivity, and overall business success. Consider these ten ways to celebrate IWD by promoting equity in the workplace:
1. Recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women in the workplace: Companies are encouraged to support the contributions of women to the workplace and celebrate their achievements. Recognition can take various forms, including awards, promotions, public recognition, and internal communication.
2. Promote gender diversity and inclusivity in hiring and promotions: Organizations should ensure that their recruitment and promotion practices are free from gender bias and that women have equal opportunities for career advancement.
3. Provide mentorship and support to women in the workplace: Women in the workplace can benefit from mentorship programs, which can provide guidance, support, and networking opportunities. Companies should establish that these programs are accessible and available to all employees.
4. Offer training on unconscious bias and other issues related to gender equality: This includes educating employees about gender stereotypes, unconscious biases, and other issues related to gender equality in the workplace.
5. Create a safe and respectful workplace free from harassment and discrimination: Set up and implement policies and procedures that help prevent and address harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This also includes providing training to employees on appropriate workplace behavior.
6. Provide flexible work arrangements to accommodate the needs of working parents and caregivers: Consider offering flexible work schedules, remote work options, and other accommodations to support employees with caregiving responsibilities.
7. Offer equal pay and benefits to women and men for the same work: Companies should ensure that their compensation practices are fair and equitable, regardless of gender.
8. Support women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs: This involves promoting and supporting women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs through partnerships, investments, and other initiatives.
9. Advocate for policies and legislation that promote gender equality: Companies can use their influence to advocate for policies and legislation that promote gender equality, both in the workplace and in society at large.
10. Participate in IWD events and campaigns to raise awareness about gender equality: Participation in IWD events helps raise awareness about gender equality and promotes positive change within the company. You can organize events, donate to charities, and promote IWD on social media and other channels.
Another good starting point to help promote equity in the workplace is to incorporate a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program into company values and culture to help establish a secure and encouraging environment for women to excel. SAGE Publishing acknowledges that a dynamic culture is founded on diversity and is privileged to collaborate with extraordinary and motivating women in various fields to provide unbiased and reliable information that contributes to a fair and impartial society.
Each year on International Women’s Day, SAGE APAC will celebrate with related themes, trying to read and hear stories from people of all backgrounds and cultures, sharing insights, and creating a real diversity, equity, and inclusion working environment. For more info about 2023 activities, follow us on Twitter at SAGE_APAC.
- International Women’s Day by Ageno Betty Ochola
- Intentional Invisibility: Professional Women and the Navigation of Workplace Constraints by Swethaa Ballakrishnen, Priya Fielding-Singh, and Devon Magliozzi
- Gender Equity in the Marketing Academy: From Performative to Institutional Allyship by Angela R. Dobele, Shelagh Ferguson, Anna E. Hartman, and Lisa Schuster