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How to celebrate and recognize International Women’s Day as a manager

International Women’s Day (IWD) is coming up on March 8th. Here’s how to celebrate with your employees. 

The significance of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated every year on March 8th. It celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

It started as an intimate gathering in Copenhagen in 1911. This day and the movement it’s inspired have helped secure women the right to vote, participate in the workforce, and hold public office. 

IWD also brings awareness to the gender parity gaps that still exist.

Here are just a few statistics about how women still face inequality in the workplace: 

  • Women make up 48% of entry-level employees, but only 22% of the c-suite.
  • 35% of women in full-time corporate sector jobs and 55% of women in senior leadership roles have experienced sexual harassment.

What to do before International Women’s Day

Get educated

Research International Women’s Day, its history, and its present-day manifestation. Do a Google search! Or here are some examples:

Start a dialogue with your team by sending an email 2-3 days before

  • Send relevant IWD articles and encourage team members to contribute their own.
  • Model curiosity by sharing your top 3 reflections on what you’ve learned about IWD. 
  • Encourage attendance and show support for your organization’s IWD celebrations and events.

Get involved

Plan to attend company-sponsored IWD events. Block out time on your calendar to reserve the day/time. 

Make an impact

Volunteer your time at a women’s shelter or make a donation to a women-focused organization on behalf of your team. 

What to do on International Women’s Day

Send an email to your team that highlights your personal commitment to gender equity.

Here is an example:

Hi Team - today is International Women’s Day. I have been reflecting on what this day signifies and my role as your manager in promoting gender equity across our team. We each bring our own experiences and backgrounds to our work and more than anything, celebrations like today’s bring awareness to my blind spots in experiences besides my own. I’m open to receiving feedback on blind spots you may see in how I hire, how I give feedback, or how I assign projects. I’m committed to understanding each of your experiences and want to provide a safe space to do that. I’ll be asking about this in our next 1:1s so anyone who feels comfortable can share their thoughts. We can have this conversation any day, but today may bring up ideas or feedback that people especially want to share now. I’m always willing to chat and I appreciate your perspective and feedback!  

If you have a team meeting on IWD, send out a link to one of these TED talks for your team to watch and have a 10-minute group discussion in your meeting. 

Start a thread in Slack where everyone can share a story about a woman from their life or from history who has positively impacted their lives. Encourage them to post pictures too!

Ways to support International Women’s Day year-round

Evaluate fairly and promote equally 

  • Reflect on how you reward, promote, or give feedback across your team. Do men and women have similar opportunities for stretch assignments? Is the promotion criteria clear? Is the language that you use to give feedback consistent? For example, terms like “bossy” and “aggressive” are often used for women who are confident, speak their minds, get things done and motivate others. Avoid using these words and educate members of your team if you hear or see others giving this kind of feedback either verbally or written.
  • Ensure that administrative tasks (often called ‘office housework’) are equally divided. Everyone on your team should take turns taking notes, organizing team lunches, and helping with quick requests.  
  • Be an advocate who elevates women’s voices. If you notice a female colleague is continually being interrupted, interject and say you’d like to hear her finish. 

Practice empathy and compassion

  • Understand that every single individual’s journey is different and should be treated with respect and care. Show empathy and compassion for the women on your team when they share vulnerable moments or stories. 

Encourage the women on your team to have a mentor  

  • It’s important to make sure your employees have access to mentors and senior leadership. Employees who have access to mentorship and senior leaders are more likely to stay at their company and aspire to be a senior leader themselves. Ask about mentorship at your next 1:1 and offer to help by suggesting or reaching out to potential mentors.  

What NOT to do on IWD

DO NOT say things like, “Why does this day exist?”

DO NOT undermine the day and what it means to people.

DO NOT make this about what you think IWD means. Invite others, especially the women on your team, to contribute.  

DO NOT ignore the women on your team and do nothing.

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