Better the Balance, Better our Workplaces,
Better our Society, Better the World.
For well over a century, people across the globe have been acknowledging International Woman’s Day (IWD) on or around March 8th. It’s a day when we celebrate the significant achievements of all women, acknowledge our unique and collective identities, and embrace our diversity. On this day, we honour those who have paved the way for us, those who have dedicated their life to the cause (OUR cause collectively as humans, not solely of women), and those who walk with us on our journey. Celebrating how far we’ve come in terms of our accomplishments, we also acknowledge the need for greater progress and the ongoing challenging of systems and barriers to gender equity – so that we can continue to pave the way for those who will come after us.
While we still have far to go, we have much to celebrate. Since the early 1900s, significant impact has been made on many fronts – from the suffrage, labour and educational rights movements, to violence protection and sexual/reproductive health laws. Women have led, and are now leading, global organizations and entire countries, and continue to achieve world-renowned accomplishments in realms never thought possible (for anyone). And although many of these may be ‘firsts’, the markers have moved, and we must collectively celebrate! It’s this affirmative action and energy that we need for continued progress.
Consider that the first Women’s Day was held in New York on February 28, 1909. This followed on the heels of the 1908 garment workers strike, comprised of 15,000 women protesting unfair pay, inequitable working hours and their inability to vote. Then, as a result of a 1910 Socialist International Meeting, involving women from 17 countries, a Women’s Day was held in 4 locations across Europe, where over a million people rallied for women’s right to vote, work, hold public office and to end discrimination. In that year, an annual Women’s Day was proposed and in 1917, after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia, March 8th became a national holiday there. Thereafter, March 8th was celebrated in communist countries until 1975, when it was adopted by the United Nations.
Now largely acknowledged and celebrated across the world, International Women’s Day is a public holiday in some countries, a day of protest in others, and a celebration of women’s achievements globally.
In the workplace, gender equity is not only legally, ethically and morally required, it also leads to tangible and significant benefits. These include increased quality, diversity and innovation of products and services, as well as significantly enriched relationship building and customer service – all of which positively impact productivity, engagement, morale, retention and ultimately, the bottom line. As this year’s IWD global theme declares, it’s Balance for Better, a theme that should not only be relevant today, but be a guiding principle for the year ahead and beyond.
It’s time for us to redefine what many think of as feminism. It’s not about declaring that everyone is the same or should be treated the same in all circumstances, or denying the differences between sex and gender. Rather, it’s about equity for everyone, regardless of gender/gender identity, sex/sexual identity, age, race, etc. It’s about knowing the difference between equity and equality. As Harvard University’s 28th President, Drew G Faust declared: ”I’m not the woman President of Harvard. I’m the President of Harvard.” Yes! Feminism is about collective equity and positive power for all beings. Accordingly, International Women’s Day is and must be supported and powered by all of our collective efforts.
Balance for Better. We encourage you to work with your teams (everyone, not just women) to promote and help them understand how equity and diversity helps all of us be successful. Ask questions. Start a dialogue. Empower. Acknowledge. Say thank you. Start by simply opening the door.
“To the wrongs that need resistance, to the rights that need assistance,
to the future in the distance, give yourself.”
~ Carrie Chapman Catt (President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1919)