12 Ways for Businesses to Support International Women’s Day

by Nicole Shephard

March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), for the 108th time running. And there is plenty left to achieve. The gender pay gap has narrowed but remains at 16% (average) in the EU and 18% in the US. Women are severely underrepresented in senior management across industries, in computer science roles across the tech industry, and 72% of startups have not a single woman on their founding team.

This year’s overarching theme for IWD is #BalanceforBetter and the IWD campaign recommends celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias, and taking action for equality to help create a more gender-balanced world. Let’s break that down into 12 actionable ways in which your business can make a difference for women in the workforce.

International Women's DayCrack down on sexual harassment

In the era of #metoo and #timesup where sexual harassment is at the forefront of public debate, review your anti-harassment policy and take IWD as an opportunity to make sure everyone in your organisation is aware and up to date on what constitutes harassment and how to proceed in case of an incident.

Mentor women

Help women advance their careers by facilitating contacts between interested mentees and mentors or set up a formal mentoring programme in your organisation. Smaller businesses can collaborate locally and put in place a joint mentoring programme to widen the circle of potential mentors and participants. And don’t forget to include women in senior positions to join as mentors too!

Boost your diversity & inclusion efforts

While gender equality is just one part of diversity and inclusion, it’s an important one. Treat IWD as an occasion to review your practices to promote diversity and foster an inclusive work environment. Work on improving your policy and practice where necessary, and promote both internally and to the wider public interested in your business.

Highlight women in your business

Launch a section on your website or a social media campaign that features your women employees. This can for example take the form of profiles that showcase the role they play in your business, short interviews, or a photo series. This helps signal to current staff and potential applicants that women are welcome and valued in your organisation. Do make sure that participation is voluntary and you have consent to feature any photo or story you want to share.

Launch an IWD blog

Ask your employees to blog about women who have inspired them, have been central to their career choice, have mentored them or otherwise helped them along their professional trajectory: mothers, sisters, teachers, bosses, colleagues or that one career counsellor who really made a difference? This can also be a space to share success stories and challenging experiences women employees have encountered in their careers to date and what balance means to them.

Promote women’s achievements

What women pioneers, professionals, scientists, inventors, politicians, writers, and so on have been influential in your industry or in the history of your company? What women’s achievements have played an important role either historically or more recently but didn’t receive enough attention? IWD is the time to dig through some archives and celebrate them all!

Host an event for women in your industry

No need to set up a big international conference. Think small and local: how about organising a networking event for women, a workshop on salary negotiations, a inspirational talk from a local business woman or a panel discussion on gender balance in your industry?

Have a “bring your daughter to work” day at the office

Encourage your employees (of any gender) to bring their daughters to work and showcase the full range of professions present in your business. An initiative like this is particularly powerful in industries where women are underrepresented, and for professions that girls are often socialised into believing are not for them.

Make a donation or become a sponsor

Consider donating to a local cause that benefits women for IWD. This can be anything from a local women’s refuge, an organisation offering support to women refugees, educational initiatives, breast- and cervical cancer research, to organisations that promote women in STEM fields. Any contribution will be appreciated, but associating your business more permanently with a cause that aligns with your values by becoming a sponsor promises a more lasting and sustainable impact.

Inspire the next generation

Get involved with local schools, girl’s organisations or youth groups. You could speak about career opportunities in your industry, offer to host career workshops, or provide work placement, internship and summer job opportunities to girls and young women at local schools and universities.

Eliminate gender stereotypes from your marketing

Have a good look at your website, advertising and other marketing materials. Are you confident that you don’t reinforce damaging stereotypes? To put it bluntly, women in suggestive poses can be fine if you’re in the business of selling women’s underwear or porn, but highly inappropriate for pretty much any other business. And that’s just one very blatant example; stereotypical representation is very widespread and it’s time to find more creative and inclusive ways to grab your audience’s attention.

Spread the word online

Use your website and social media channels to celebrate IWD and raise awareness around inequality, bias, the gender pay gap and opportunities for women in your industry. Share your own IWD initiatives too, may they serve as inspiration for other business to become more active! Use the hashtags #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2019 and #BetterforBalance to be part of the wider conversation.

No time to fit all that into one day? Good news: the International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign doesn’t end after 8 March but runs all year long. What can you do in 2019 to improve gender balance in your team, business, industry, community and the world?

Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. (IWD)


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