International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8th every year. It’s a moment to focus our attention on the rights of women across the globe. Key issues such as reproductive rights, gender equality, abuse, and violence against women are top priorities every year, but this year, the focus is on embracing equity. The day garners a sense of female empowerment as women of all walks of life globally come together to reflect on the impact women have on our world and society. Comfort Keepers prides itself on its women, given that women make up around 85 of its staff globally. Read on to find out why IWD is such a vital marker for everyone, not just for women.
A Brief History of IWD
Propelled by the universal female suffrage movement that started in New Zealand, International Women’s Day has its origins in the labour movements in Europe and North America during the early 20th century. On March 19th 1911, more than a million people marked the first International Women’s Day in Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, and Germany. Once women achieved suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, the start of the February Revolution, the authorities made IWD a national holiday on March 8th. After that, the socialist movement and other communist countries celebrated the date. The holiday became affiliated with far-left governments and movements until its endorsement by the international feminist movement in the late 1960s. IWD then became an accepted holiday across the world once the United Nations adopted it in 1977.
Nowadays, International Women’s Day is commemorated in a number of different ways across the world. It’s a public holiday in some countries (and city-states, such as Berlin) and is recognised in others to promote and celebrate the achievements of women.
The UN’s Theme for IWD in 2023
“DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” is the theme for IWD 2023. It ties in very neatly with a push by the UN to explore how the digital age can help achieve gender equality along with the empowerment of all girls and women. The UN says it wants to celebrate the women and girls who champion advances in digital education and transformative technology. It will assess the impact of the digital gender gap on increasing economic and social inequalities. The day is also an opportunity to highlight the significance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces. It will address online gender-based violence too. The UN believes that involving women and other marginalised bodies in technology achieves more creative solutions. That has more potential for meeting the needs of women and promoting gender equality.
In contrast, the current lack of inclusion comes with a massive financial cost. The exclusions of women from the digital world, the UN says, has slashed $1 trillion from the gross domestic product (GDP) of low and middle-income countries in the past 10 years. The UN expects this loss to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2025 if no action gets taken. Reversing the trend will mean rooting out the issue of online violence: one study carried out across more than 50 countries found more than a third of women had experienced this.
A Fresh and Inclusive Digital Plan
A technology and digital education plan that is gender-responsive can raise the awareness of women and girls about their rights and civic engagement. Advances in digital technology offer invaluable opportunities but there is always a risk. The danger is that they can give existing patterns of gender inequality a boost. Increasing inequalities have become more and more evident in the context of digital skills and accessible technology. That’s leaving many women behind. Inclusive and transformative technology and digital education are vital for a sustainable future. On March 8th, the UN will be bringing together technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and gender equality activists together. This will be the chance to highlight the role of all stakeholders in enhancing access to digital tools.
IWD in Ireland 2023
You’ll find a broad range of events across Ireland on or around March 8th to mark IWD. The day acts as a call to action for accelerating gender equality with the campaign theme “Embrace Equity” at its heart.
The focus is very much on considering what a gender-equal world would look like. The goal would be global diversity and inclusivity where differences get embraced. Events planned will:
- Celebrate the achievements of women
- Increase awareness of women’s equality
- Lobby for a faster pace towards gender parity
- Fundraise for female-focused charities
3 core beliefs take centre-stage. These are:
- Honouring and raising the visibility of women’s accomplishments
- Combatting gender discrimination to boost gender parity
- Strategic collaborations founded on shared purpose
The International Women’s Day website offers a whole host of useful advice and tips. These range from a register of speakers to a list of female-focused charities.
Celebrating the Achievements of Women in the Workplace
When taking stock of the themes of IWD 2023, it’s worth looking at some of the achievements of women closer to home. Women have played an integral part in Irish politics. Mary O’Rourke, Mary Coughlan and Katherine Zappone are a few of the better-known trailblazers. Most of the period from 1990 has seen a female Irish president, with Mary Robinson and then Mary McAleese taking the helm until 2011. It’s a huge achievement that Irish women have more rights today than their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers ever had. That’s as it should be but inequalities still exist.
Ireland’s Place in the EU
Gender equality across the EU gets measured by the Gender Equality Index. Ireland’s 2022 index score was above the EU average at just over 74 points. That put the country at number 7 overall out of 27 EU nations. The Irish score flagged up particular gender inequalities in the area of power, where the points tally was a little under 62. Nonetheless, that was a very real improvement in Ireland’s power domain compared to 2010 when the score was almost 25 points lower. Ireland also comes out well in tackling inequality in health where it ranks second in the EU. Women in Ireland continue to trailblaze almost everywhere. Professor Mary Horgan became the first woman President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland’s 363-year history. Ballina native Norah Patten’s been training to become the first Irish person in space.
In sports, Ireland’s women continue to excel with 4 Olympic and World champions in boxing. With this, Mayo native and former county footballer, Sarah Rowe, has been instrumental in encouraging women to participate in sport. Comfort Keepers, Ireland, has seen 2 female CEOs, with Brid Gould currently in overall charge. Comfort Keepers gave her the opportunity to influence the strategy of the business early on and she’s thrived in the entrepreneurial atmosphere, she says.
5 Ways to Improve Gender Equality in the Workplace
Improving workplace equality can bring efficiency benefits for employers. A 1 per cent gender bias effect can cause massive losses in productivity in larger companies, one recent study found. Businesses can work on improving gender equality by taking these measures:
1. Create a Longer Shortlist When Recruiting
Gender inequities can begin in informal recruitment processes, especially in male-dominated industries. Recruiters should make informal shortlists longer. Just adding 3 extra candidates can see the women-to-men ratio rise dramatically.
2. Do Away with the Gender Pay Gap
This gap calculates the difference in average earnings between male and female employees. Employers should be transparent about salaries to ensure women don’t receive less than men in equivalent roles.
3. Use Skills-based Assessments
Employers should use skills-based assessments and specially designed interviews when recruiting to mitigate the danger of unfair bias. Getting candidates to carry out tasks businesses would expect of them in a particular role helps companies to assess their suitability based on performance. There needs to be standardisation of these tasks for all applicants to make sure the process is fair. Recruiters should practice structured interviews in which each candidate gets asked the same questions in the same order. Assessing the responses with standardised criteria can mitigate the danger of unconscious bias.
4. Women Should Mentor Men
Mentoring in the workplace can help employees progress in their careers. Having women mentor men can be a benefit to both parties, and society in general, by helping employees learn more about different ways of working and leadership styles.
5. Keep Work-life Balance a Top Priority
Improving work-life balance can benefit both sexes. Companies that offer flexible working opportunities will tend to get more applications to fill job vacancies. Shared parental leave policies and enabling working parents to share childcare more evenly are helpful.
Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023
As we look ahead to the challenges ahead, Ireland has plenty to build on and celebrate in relation to women’s rights.
At Comfort Keepers, we take the issue of gender equality extremely seriously. Comfort Keepers is an equality opportunities employer, which proudly differentiates itself on its diverse workforce. March 8th is a great opportunity for us all to get involved whether that be by simple reflection or by taking some kind of action to improve the empowerment of women. We have a range of other articles in the resources section on our website. Find out more here about World Mental Health Day.
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