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Accelerating Progress on International Women’s Day 2024

March 8, 2024

The roots of International Women’s Day are grounded in the struggle for better working conditions for women. 114 years later, some of those struggles are still alive. 

A bit of history

International Women’s Day can be traced back to 1909, when the first National Women’s Day was observed by the Socialist Party of America to honour the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York.

In 1910, at the International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, a German socialist, proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day. The proposal was met with unanimous approval from over 100 women representing 17 countries, laying the foundation for the inaugural International Women’s Day a year later.

In 1975, the United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day, declaring March 8 as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. Since then, the day has served as an annual opportunity to reflect on progress made, raise awareness about ongoing challenges, and celebrate the achievements of women worldwide.

One of the key challenges in achieving gender equality is an alarming lack of financing, with a staggering USD 360 billion annual deficit in spending on gender-equality measures.  That is one of the reasons this year’s theme, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress“, urges us to prioritize investments in women to expedite global progress towards gender equality.

So, what can workplaces do to accelerate progress?

Inclusive Policies and Practices: Establishing inclusive policies and practices is fundamental to creating a conducive environment for women to thrive professionally. This includes,

  • equitable recruitment and promotion processes,
  • transparent pay structures,
  • flexible work arrangements, and
  • robust support systems for work-life balance.

Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs: Mentorship and sponsorship programs are vital to nurturing talent and facilitating career advancement. Pairing with seasoned mentors provides guidance, support, and invaluable insights into navigating the corporate landscape. Additionally, sponsorship from influential leaders can open doors to high-visibility projects, promotions, and networking opportunities, accelerating career progression.

Training and Development Initiatives: From leadership development programs to technical skills workshops, providing access to relevant training empowers women to take on leadership roles and excel in their chosen fields.

Data-driven Approach: Leveraging data and analytics is essential for monitoring progress, identifying areas for improvement, and holding organizations accountable for their diversity and inclusion initiatives. By tracking key metrics such as representation at different levels, pay equity, and employee satisfaction, organizations can measure the effectiveness of their strategies and drive continuous improvement.

Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaboration with external stakeholders, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and industry peers, amplifies the effect of gender diversity initiatives. By pooling resources, sharing best practices, and advocating for policy changes, collaborative efforts can drive systemic change and create a more inclusive ecosystem across industries.

Addressing Unconscious Bias: Unconscious bias can impede progress in the workplace by influencing hiring decisions, performance evaluations, and promotion opportunities. We must raise awareness of unconscious bias and implement measures to mitigate its impact, such as diversity training, anonymous recruitment processes, and regular bias audits.

Cultivating Inclusive Leadership: Building inclusive leadership is essential for fostering a workplace culture where all employees feel valued and empowered to contribute their best. Leaders must champion inclusivity, actively listen to diverse perspectives, and take proactive steps to address systemic barriers to advancement.

International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of the resilience and determination of women throughout history who have fought for their rights and paved the way for future generations. But we are not quite there yet. I hope that our celebrations on March 8th also act as encouragement for continued efforts to dismantle systemic inequalities and create a more just and inclusive society for all.