A seed planted early in the 20th century has grown into an annual celebration spearheaded by the United Nations. International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8th March every year, has a rich history of women fighting for equality. This day commemorates women’s achievements across all fields and raises awareness of the struggle women continue to face until this day.
Did you know that Russia records its highest annual flower sales on Women’s Day? While gifts are lovely, it’s essential not to forget the purpose of this day. It is useful to use this day as a reminder to re-enforce equity initiatives to reduce the gender gap, achieve pay parity, increase access. It is these sustainable initiatives that truly celebrate the spirit of this day. There are ways an organization can genuinely celebrate women, especially their contribution to the workforce and the value they bring. This goes beyond appreciating female employees with flowers.
It cannot be easy to plan something unique for every important event through the year, but here are some suggestions on how you can celebrate 8th March for what it is—celebrating women.
Here are a few reflective questions when organizing Women’s Day celebrations at the workplace:
Are our celebrations gaining more champions for gender inclusion or creating a divide?
A gender agnostic celebration means involving people across all genders to be a part of Women’s Day. This ensures a more extensive involvement from employees across the organization and highlights the value women bring in. Women’s issues are often discussed in isolation, only among other women who possibly face the same concerns.
If you are having a workshop focusing on women’s health, work-life balance, managing stress, self-care, single parenting, financial security etc., invite employees of all genders to attend it. As an organization, while speaking about women’s wellbeing at the workplace, an intersectional approach is the most inclusive step. This means including trans women as an integral part of all the conversations around Women’s Day.
Having more open discussions on barriers women face in the workforce, using data, and including all points of view creates a space for healthy meetings and makes employees raising concerns feel heard. This could be the first step towards creating allies within the workplace.
Are the contributions of ALL women in the organizations being celebrated?
When we talk about women in the organization, we must remember that this goes beyond the desk employee. Several women play a role contributing to the company’s success and go unseen. These include women who work as housekeepers, security personnel, and other support staff. Bringing their stories to the forefront helps take a step towards ensuring a more inclusive workplace for everyone. This can be done by involving them in the celebrations, sharing their stories with the rest of the workforce, and giving them the space to express themselves and what this day means to them.
Did you know that there are women contributing to the organization’s success who aren’t directly on the pay-rolls?
These are mothers, wives, partners, and other associates of male employees who undertake the unpaid labour of managing households. Their contribution mostly goes unnoticed, especially considering their work gives male employees the freedom to thrive at their workplace. Encouraging employees to recognize this contribution is important.
One of the significant consequences of COVID-19 has been increased household pressures and childcare along with work. This has impacted women in particular, leading many to contemplate leaving the workforce altogether. This, coupled with the rapidly declining number of women in the Indian workforce, leaves organizations at a greater risk of an increased gender gap. Additionally, male employees can be encouraged to participate in unpaid labour home. This will aid in empowering women with access to time and other work opportunities that unpaid work holds them back from. Women’s Day can be a good starting point for such conversations.
Are the employees learning through their engagement programs?
In working remotely, employees rarely get the chance to engage with each other outside of work. The lines between work and non-work conversations blur when the only interaction you have with a colleague is through a small screen. Taking Women’s Day as an opportunity to host employee engagement activities involving people across the company can help rebuild relationships and give employees a much-deserved break from daily work.
Instead of the usual games, combining these with learnings about stereotypes and biases or highlighting barriers women face can be a fun and educative way to engage employees. This breaks the monotony of a daily routine while also bringing the spirit of Women’s Day forward.
Highlighting women’s achievements, whether they are directly employed by the organization or play a supportive role behind the scenes, can make women feel like someone has finally recognized their value. Often, something they may not have been able to do themselves owing to self-doubt. These recognitions can contribute towards strengthening the movement towards an inclusive and equitable society.