10 Ways to Celebrate International Women's Day

6 min read
Feb 19, 2019

This International Women's Day, why not make it a day to remember? Use this list of event ideas to have fun, promote diversity and celebrate your female workers.  



According to data collected by Pew Research, 2018 marked the first year in several where the percentage of female Fortune 500 CEOs actually decreased. Between 2010 and 2017, this number steadily rose from 3 to 6.4 percent, yet 2018 saw a slight dip with 4.8 percent. The same study found that 60 percent of those surveyed felt that this was as a result of women having to do more to prove themselves professionally than men.

So how can we help curb these stats, provide opportunities to amplify inclusive leadership, and spotlight all-star female talent? International Women’s Day provides the perfect platform to make a start.

Celebrated yearly on March 8, the movement’s origins can be traced back to 1909 in the United States following a female workers’ strike in New York. The United Nations celebrated its first official International Women’s Day in 1975. Now a worldwide movement, individuals and organizations participate in various activities to call for a more gender-balanced world and celebrate female achievement.

Here are 10 ways you can bring this movement to your organization this year.


1. Spotlight Content

Work with your organization’s marketing team to create a content strategy for the month leading up to International Women’s Day. This could include a blog series to spotlight female leadership and staff, industry influencers, or best practices for inclusive leadership.

Companies have also taken the opportunity to make a visible commitment, or pledge, to support the movement. In 2018 Aperian Global asked each international office to make a pledge to #PressforProgress - the International Women’s Day hashtag for that year - and share a picture that was promoted throughout social media. By including testimonials from every level of the company, this approach feels authentic, inclusive, and also presents an opportunity to show your company culture.

Surprising Effects of Employee Recognition

2. Activate Influencers

In addition to engaging influencers as a part of a blog series, you can also invite them to come speak at a company event or panel focused around International Women’s Day. This helps celebrate female achievement while also educating your organization on best practices and resources to build inclusive leadership not just as an expectation, but the norm.

Consider showings of TED Talks led by influencers on topics that align with your company’s culture and values, helping to inform how diversity and inclusion can be integrated at every level of the company, even as early as onboarding training for new employees.

For example, AECOM Associate Director Roma Agrawal (MBE) participated in an AECOM panel event in conjunction with the publication of her book, “Built: The Hidden Stories Behind our Structures.” Agrawal is a pioneering campaigner of women in engineering.


3. Film Screenings and Discussion Groups

In addition to the speakers series above, consider film screenings relating to International Women’s Day or other gender issues. A study from San Diego State University found that only 7 percent of directors working on the 250 highest grossing films in 2016 were women. Consider International Women’s Day a jumping off point for these conversations by screening a female-directed movie, especially one that addresses gender issues. Invite employees to participate in small discussion groups about the film’s themes and how those tie into society’s approach to the gender gap today, and how your company can address these issues in everyday work.


4. Globalize the Message

Aligning around a central message of support can be difficult at organizations with many offices locally, nationally, and internationally. But by providing employees the opportunity to participate in a larger conversation on women’s issues, you bring these conversations directly to them. Consider a weekly webinar series in March, or localized meetups and activities that different offices can participate in at a local level.

However, as we discuss at the end of this post, these global efforts should continue to occur even after March 8. Create an ongoing mentorship program to help empower inclusive leadership. Also encourage leadership to host quarterly town hall meetings where employees can continue a dialogue with leadership on these issues long after International Women’s Day.


5. Professional Development

As a pairing with speakers and webinars, consider International Women’s Day an opportunity to integrate professional development training around inclusive leadership. These can be digital - perhaps an online course that staff completes - or an in-person workshop that staff can attend to learn more.

These trainings are also another opportunity for content creation. Work with your HR and marketing teams to create downloadable toolkits on inclusive leadership that can be made available to staff, or even publicly available on the website. By providing these resources, you help demonstrate your organization’s commitment to gender equality while also providing staff with tangible resources for their own personal and professional growth.

On International Women’s Day 2018, AECOM created a toolkit for all staff centered around inclusive leadership. Not only did this show their company’s commitment to the cause, but it also served as a base with which to create new innovative approaches to these issues in their workplace.


6. Networking Opportunities

Although this might require more planning, consider hosting yearly networking or recruiting events centered around inclusivity. Use these as opportunities to connect with new talent while also giving female employees the chance to talk to prospective hires about their role. By opening these events to your entire industry, you can position your company as a leader in diversity and inclusion issues while also offering a larger networking opportunity for those who are interested.


7. Call Out the Stats

A MTI study found that teams with mixed gender are more creative - in fact, the same study found that offices with evenly-split gender representation could possibly increase revenue by 41 percent.

Stats like this point at the opportunity for your organization to use International Women’s Day to engage your data analysis team, highlighting successes in gender representation and achievement. With tools like TINYpulse, you can pulse employee opinions on how they feel about gender issues in your workplace, publishing the results of these polls in an annual report. This helps demonstrate your company’s commitment to inclusivity and its impact on empowering female leadership.

Valtech, a global digital agency, published a full webpage infographic about its North America office’s female leadership and their connection to the company’s success. Incredibly comprehensive and well-designed, it also takes the opportunity to shine light on company culture with a nod towards showing off their expertise.


8. Volunteer

Many companies have started to incorporate volunteering as a way to promote company culture. Take International Women’s Day as an opportunity to help your teams bond outside of the office environment while supporting your community.

For example, at HubSpot, the company’s engineering team hosted a group of young women for an Hour of Code event on International Women’s Day. This event enabled staff to give back to their community while also celebrating the success of their company’s female engineers. This helped the company demonstrate their commitment to greater gender balance in engineering and tech.


9. Team Building

Similar to volunteering, International Women’s Day can be a perfect time to help reinforce team cohesion with a team building activity, especially if it relates to gender equality or International Women’s Day itself.

For example, AXA XL's Women of the World (WoW) Bermuda chapter staff completed a large jigsaw puzzle with the 2018 International Women’s Day theme, #PressforProgress, printed on it. Not only did this help team collaboration, but the company said it also symbolized that everyone can play a part in working for gender balance.

The official International Women’s Day organization also runs a “best practices” competition, where organizations can enter themselves to win based on their activities. This can take teambuilding to a new level by rallying employees around your organization’s activities on this day.


10. Keep Talking About It

Although International Women’s Day engages a global conversation around gender balance, remember that these efforts should be recognized more than just one day a year.

According to one study, annual average pay for women now equals what men’s salaries were a decade ago. This, coupled together with the Pew research referenced earlier in this post, signal that while there has been significant achievement in these areas, there is still room for improvement as well.

Consider using frequent data pulsing to ensure your HR team has an understanding of staff opinion of inclusivity. And as far as the professional development, speaker series, and other resources that are outlined above - consider these as options to integrate year-round, not just on International Women’s Day. Work with your HR team to ensure programming and policies prioritize these issues. As we’ve written about previously here at TINYpulse, take your exit reviews seriously. Without the threat of retaliation, exiting employees often share critical feedback that is essential for fixing problems at the manager, department, or even company level.


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