For over a century, International Women’s Day, held on 8 March each year, has marked a day of celebration and advocacy for women’s rights and equality around the world.
In 2020 and 2021, countries with women leaders (such as New Zealand, Germany and Bangladesh) received global praise for their effective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic; Kamala Harris broke a glass ceiling and became the first female, Black, and South Asian American Vice President of the United States; and Scotland became the first country to allow free and universal access to menstrual products.
While these examples represent some of the incredible strides we’ve made in creating a more inclusive and equitable society, we still have a long way to go. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, at the current rate of change, gender parity will not be attained for another 99.5 years.
Our world and company leaders play an integral role in forging the path toward change, but it’s also up to each and every one of us to get involved – and there is no action too small to get started.
In this blog post, we share 10 excellent ways that you, your team and your community can celebrate International Women’s Day this year and do your part to advocate for gender equality.
Editor's note: This blog post was updated from its original version on 11 February 2021.
1. #ChooseToChallenge and show your support on social
This year’s official International Women’s Day theme (2021) is #ChooseToChallenge. It’s a call-to-action to challenge the status quo by raising awareness against bias, celebrating women's achievement, and taking action for equality.
One simple, yet impactful way to celebrate International Women’s Day this year is to show your commitment to challenging inequality by taking part in the #ChooseToChallenge social media campaign. Take a photo of yourself raising your hand high and share it on your preferred social media platform(s) using #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021.
You can even use these awesome templates to create custom co-branded social media cards to get your whole team involved.
2. Involve men and people who identify beyond the gender binary in the conversation and celebration
Oftentimes, most International Women’s Day celebrations and initiatives are targeted at women. However, it’s essential that people of all gender identities are involved in the conversations and become equal advocates for gender parity.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress — compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged.
When you’re planning your International Women’s Day activities, ensure you invite and encourage your male friends or teammates to participate and champion gender equality together. And make sure your gender diverse and non-binary friends and teammates are included and welcomed into the conversation about how we can promote equality for people of all gender identities.
3. Advocate for gender equality in your workplace
In 2021, women are facing new challenges at work as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. According to the McKinsey report, Women in the Workplace 2020, women in the United States – especially women of colour – are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed, or driven to consider leaving their careers due to the increased responsibility of managing household and childcare responsibilities.
To ensure that women continue to progress toward gender equality at work, it’s essential that businesses create inclusive working environments. This International Women’s Day, examine your company’s policies and/or challenge your business leaders to ensure that women receive fair and equitable support at work. As a starting point, look at policies related to following areas:
- Diversity and inclusion training for recruitment and hiring employees
- Equitable parental leave
- Flexible work scheduling
- Programs to advance women in leadership positions
- Mentorship or coaching opportunities for women
Without equal inclusion of women in business, education, health and politics, we will not be able to solve the world’s most pressing problems and achieve a prosperous, vibrant future.
3. Host or attend an online panel
Hearing women share their experiences, knowledge, and advice is one of the best ways to get inspired to make change. This year, as most of the world is gathering online instead of in-person, there are tons of great virtual events planned for International Women’s Day.
As you’re planning your celebrations, research some interesting events in your industry or community and encourage your friends, family, or team to register with you. Here’s a list of a few events to get you started:
- AHRI's International Women's Day Virtual Event: Explore how creating a truth-telling workplace culture – where everyone is safe to speak up and speak out – can help eliminate sexual harassment. [Free]
- She-EO’s Virtual 2021 Summit: Hear from cutting-edge thinkers, innovators, and women working on the ‘World’s To-Do List’ on what’s next for the economy, education, food security, housing and more. [Free]
- Women in Tech’s Tech(Know) Day: This online conference will showcase women in tech (cis, trans, non-binary) and their craft, as well as career, personal development, business and strategy insight. [Free]
5. Set up a (virtual) coffee date with a woman in your network
Sometimes, the best way to get inspired or learn something new is through a simple conversation.
This March, try asking a woman in your network on a “virtual coffee date” (15-30 minutes of their time) to discuss their career, experiences overcoming workplace bias, leadership, self-care, or any other topics of personal interest. Here are a few questions you can ask to kick off the conversation:
- What unique challenges have you faced in your career as a woman? How did you overcome them?
- Which mentors or role models have positively impacted you in your career, and what’s one lesson that they taught you?
- How have you managed to balance your career and personal life?
- What advice would you give to your “X”-year old self?
- I’d love to connect with other women like you in this industry – do you know of anyone else who might be willing to chat with me?
6. Start a book club with your colleagues or friends
Understanding some of the challenges faced by women around the world is an important step in advocating for gender equality. To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, consider starting a book club with your team or folks in your community that focuses on educating on women’s issues, empowerment, and achievements.
Here are a few fantastic choices to get you started:
- Educated, by Tara Westover
- I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brené Brown
- No Logo, by Naomi Klein
- We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Black Unicorn: Poems, by Audre Lorde
- Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
7. Support women-owned businesses
Supporting businesses that are owned, operated, and controlled by a woman or women helps contribute to equal economic empowerment, representative products and services, and a more prosperous economy overall.
“Vote with your dollar” this International Women’s Day by deliberately seeking out and supporting local businesses that are women-owned. Share your challenge with your friends and encourage them to do the same!
8. Host a film screening
Representation in film has a huge impact on how audiences learn about gender norms, the issues we focus on, and the way we perceive the world.
While we are achieving record levels of female representation in film, there is still a ton of work to do to close Hollywood’s gender gap. For example, according to the 2019 Celluloid Ceiling report, women accounted for 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 grossing films, yet no female directors were nominated for the 2020 Golden Globe awards or in the best director category at the Oscars.
This year, grab your friends or team and view the world from a woman’s point of view. Here are a few films by women directors or featuring a women-centric cast to add to your list:
- 13th – Directed by Ava DuVernay, this powerful documentary takes a critical look at the prison system in America, linking it to slavery and deeply embedded racism.
- Hooligan Sparrow – Directed by Nanfu Wang. A gripping documentary, this film follows human rights activist Ye Haiyan as she seeks justice for six abused girls in China.
- Suffragette – Directed by Sarah Gavron. A woman’s life is forever changed when she’s recruited to join the UK’s suffragette movement in 1912. An eye-opening look at one of the most important social movements in history.
- Hidden Figures – Featuring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae in leading roles, this film brings to life the untold story of a trio of female NASA scientists who helped launch the first American astronaut into space.
- Trapped – Directed by Sian Melton, this documentary examines the TRAP laws in the US, which make it extremely difficult for abortion clinics to operate in certain states. A powerful look at reproductive rights and the impact these laws have on women.
9. Donate to charity
If you’re looking for a way to make a difference in a worthy cause this March, consider donating to a charitable organisation supporting women – either locally or globally.
Here are a few organisations doing incredible work to fight for gender equality and women’s rights:
- Women for Women International invests in women survivors of war and conflict, connecting them with each other, resources, and support to realize their own power.
- AnitaB.Org envisions a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for whom they build it. AnitaB.Org works to advance women in technology in the United States and across the world.
- Dress for Success is a global not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
10. Acknowledge the awesome women in your life
Sometimes, simple words of encouragement and love can go a long way in lifting someone up and inspiring them to keep going. Whether it’s your mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, or friend – send a text, call or Facetime an important woman in your life to let them know how awesome they are.
Our commitment to gender equality at Xero
Gender equality, and diversity and inclusion more broadly, is an integral part of Xero’s culture. We’re incredibly proud to be included as one of 380 companies worldwide in the 2021 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI). Learn more about our diversity and inclusion policies and how we’re working to create an inclusive work environment.