Women offer much to be celebrated, from business-influencing acumen to amazing athletic feats, and roles as culture changers and persistent mothers. With International Women’s Day approaching, it’s an appropriate time to emblazon their laurels during this designated day and remember to celebrate women every day.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, March 8, is #EachforEqual. In the U.S., UK, and Australia, all of March is Women's History Month, with U.S. organizations “commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.”
When you resolve to be an agent for change by prompting initiatives concentrating on empowering women, you also want to ensure your efforts will have a resounding impact and are as inclusive as possible. While you work on highlighting one group, remember to welcome and encourage involvement from everyone.
“The first tip is to make sure your initiatives are inclusive to everyone! Men and those who identify as non-binary should be welcomed," said Valerie Lopez, Vice President, Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, at Cision.
“Another tip is to think about the makeup of your audience and makeup of your speakers/panelists. Who is invited to the event? Is it a good representation and reflection of your diverse employees or audience? The same goes for speakers. Do they all have the same background and experiences? If so, add someone who can add diversity and new experiences to the conversation.”
How to celebrate International Women’s Day
Find your focus by choosing a theme and launch an initiative to bring attention to it. This year, you can focus on the IWD theme Each for Equal or you can focus on other topics of interest to your audience.
With any initiative, it is a good idea to ask your audience to promote your activities on different social media platforms, getting them to engage and use designated hashtags. There are many effective initiatives you can host to celebrate your IWD theme in a way that will resonate.
Host a selfie station
Bring in props, like purple balloons and accessories, poster boards with markers to make personalized signs, and printable selfie cards for your colleagues to hold while posing. Post a sign at your selfie stations with instructions for selfie-takers to promote their photos via social media using hashtags like #EachforEqual and #IWD2020.
As International Women’s Day this year occurs on a Sunday, you may want to consider scheduling your IWD selfie promotions in your office in the days leading up to or following March 8, to be inclusive of what works best for your office culture. Selfies can be shared early or saved for sharing on March 8 and beyond.
Spend time with your favorite women or send them a thank you note. Invite your mom, your aunt, your daughter, or your mentor to go for a walk, to get coffee, or to go to dinner. Share with them how their influence has impacted your life. If you’re not able to meet face-to-face, take advantage of technology or mail to reach out with gratitude.
“I make it a point to send notes to the women in my life who have advocated and championed for me throughout my career. It’s always nice to know when you’ve made an impact in someone’s life and it’s a nice reminder of my privilege of having empowering women in my life,” said Lopez.
Highlight real women
Choose real women in your network who deserve to be celebrated or historical women who exemplify characteristics you admire; interview women you know or create a brief summary of historical women; and share a highlight story about these women via social media or create a flier for public education and visibility.
Mentor or help someone in your network
Has someone in your network asked for insight on your career path or shared interests? Make yourself available to people in your network and be willing to share advice and resources to help them in any way you can. Empowered women and men empower women!
Host an event
Organize a lunch and learn discussion group to talk about a topic such as what #EachforEqual means to you. Discuss the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women's constitutional right to vote in the U.S., and host onsite voter registration in your area, if possible. Events can vary according to your resources and can feature an honorable woman speaker or an onsite workshop.
Organize a volunteer day
Are you interested in showing your support of women by doing something positive and proactive? You can volunteer individually or, if you prefer doing things in a group, organize a day of volunteerism for everyone. I recommend polling your group for suggestions on philanthropic organizations they prefer so group members will be more likely to commit to a day of volunteering with that organization. Contact the organization to ensure they can host your group, then work with them to pick a day that works best for both the organization and your group. Take pictures and share your efforts on social media with #EachforEqual and #IWD2020.
How to promote empowering initiatives
While IWD and Women's History Month provide a targeted reminder to highlight women’s achievements, supporting women’s empowerment is timeless. Some other days that celebrate empowering women include World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) and International Day of the Girl Child (October 11).
You can continue to promote empowering initiatives that support women all year long.
It’s important and necessary to poll your audience to gauge their interests to ensure your initiative will resonate successfully. An email campaign to your audience incorporating a short survey can provide insight into which women-related topics are most important -- and thus most likely to ensure engagement.
Keep your survey short and advertise it as such.
Your questions should be concise, such as:
- What women’s issues are most important to you?
- What type of event do you prefer to participate in (professional development workshop, speaker/discussion, volunteerism, other)?
- What time of day/week/year are you most available to participate in a women’s empowerment event?
Once you have responses, you can focus your initiatives on the most popular topics and timing, ensuring the highest engagement. Knowing audience availability will allow you to concentrate your efforts on hosting women empowerment initiatives any time of year.
Plot out a multi-channel approach to promoting your initiatives with social media, word of mouth, fliers, and emails, and plan important deadlines by working backward. If you plan to host an event in June, consider that you may want promotional materials ready at least two weeks ahead of your event date to generate interest/buzz. Consider how long it may take you to create your promotional materials; if you want to spend two weeks designing your materials, you need to have your event focus finalized one month early. If you are going to focus your event based on survey results, you will want to have those results a couple of weeks before the month marker prior to your event.
Continue working backward until all components are accounted for, giving yourself plenty of time to succeed without any missed steps.
How to be an ally with women
An ally is someone who acts on inequalities, works to end injustices, supports others, and uses privilege to bring visibility to issues of inequity along with tangible change.
Being a supportive part of the conversation about women’s equality is essential to promoting respect as a norm. It is important for men to be allies with women and participate in women’s empowerment initiatives, such as IWD.
“Numbers still show that leadership roles are primarily held by men across various industries. And as leaders, they hold decision-making responsibilities that can create the change needed to build an inclusive and equitable workplace. For men, being visible and active in these initiatives is a great first step. To build on that, men can help mitigate bias by speaking out against bias, sexist language, microaggressions, and inequities. That’s how they can be truly authentic champions for #EachforEqual,” said Lopez.
Allies can educate themselves through participation in advocacy, workshops, or conversations with friends. By listening to what women share with you and speaking against bias when you see it happening, you truly empower women as their ally.