International Women’s Day began in 1909 after the women’s suffrage movement protests and since, it has become an internationally recognised occasion for celebrating efforts of the past and planning for the future. For over a century, March 8th has been celebrated as a day we put women on the map.
This year, the focus of the campaign was “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” and the theme was “Choose to Challenge”.
The occasion celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political efforts made by women, girls and those who identify as them. For example, over the last year, women all around the world have stood at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis and helped forge a recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.
They have brought creativity and critical services to all levels of society, as our online educators, our scientists, our caregivers, our innovators, our community organisers, our healthcare workers and some of these women have even been our most impressive and efficient national leaders in fighting the spread. Some of the massive contributions they have made has carried the weight of the pandemic and has been celebrated on this year’s IWD.
In fact, women make up 70% of the global health workforce, and a vast majority of the more successful countries in rapidly, decisively and effectively combating the virus are led by women. This includes the leaders of Government in New Zealand, Slovakia, Iceland, Germany, Finland, Ethiopia and Denmark. Yet, despite these exemplary achievements, women’s efforts are still less recognised, their work underpaid, and they are only Heads of State and Government in 20 countries worldwide.
Although, International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a century heralding the achievements of women and bringing to light the continuing disparity and gender inequality women still endure, we can’t help but question: is this enough? When we celebrate these achievements on a particular day every year and acknowledge the success, value, power and accomplishment of women only once annually, it raises the question: what difference can we make if we were to treat the remaining 364 days of the year like International Women’s Day?
This is the very question Janelle Bostock, CEO of Australia’s largest and longest standing women in business organisation – Women’s Network Australia – is raising.
“If we were all to take just a small portion of the awareness and effort we make on International Women’s Day into our daily mode of operation, and carry this with us into our circle of friends, our workplaces, our businesses and our communities – just imagine what impact each of us could bring about”.
“It’s like anything really. If we want to get fitter, lose weight or learn new skills, we have to practice consistently and with repetition to see any real result. So, we go to the gym more regularly or create new daily habits and it should be the same principle with gender equality. Like anything else we might want in life, we can not rely on a single day to bring about the cultural change we want to see in society”.
While it is a long being fought fight for women to gain equal rights and opportunities right across society, career, business, family and communities – gender equality is actually a two gender job. After all, we are all products of our circumstances and the lingering sentiment of generations past, which have us carry forward what we are taught. As a society that has a strong history of patriarchal leadership to grow into a more modern expression that holds gender equality as one of its core values – it will take time to develop.
And, despite all the many amazing steps toward a world without gender bias that are evident, we are still witness to gender-based pay difference, discrimination, disparity and social judgement, to name just a few.
“For us at the Women’s Network we aim to champion women, their achievements, their lessons and share their stories not just on IWD but every day of the year. We endeavour to create opportunities for women to be seen, heard and supported in their pursuits with the aim to do our bit toward gender equality”, says Janelle.
“As part of this we are soon releasing the first in our book series ‘Humble Leaders’ which highlights the journeys, challenges and achievements of twelve women who have despite all odds forged their way to success standing their woman in a still largely male dominated world”.
“The more we do, the sooner we get there. As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. But we must place one foot in front of the other more frequently than once a year in order to get there,” says Janelle Bostock.
If we were all to take it upon ourselves to bring the notion of International Women’s Day into our everyday, into our own circles and networks, just Imagine what achievements we could be celebrating a year from now on IWD 2022.
Erik Bigalk is a business solutionist, quantum coach, award-winning serial entrepreneur and internationally published writer/speaker.