International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (you can find the official website here) ‒ or IWD ‒ has been celebrating the successes and challenging the injustices of women around the world for decades.

While these injustices demand so much more time than just one day, International Women’s Day is still an effective amplifier of the voices of women, and a powerful step in the right direction.

But do you know the history of International Women’s Day?  We are going to celebrate women today, while also highlighting the struggle of women in colour face, particularly in the workplace.

Join us in solidarity as we find out all there is to know about International Women’s Day.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day of celebration, action, and awareness for women and the challenges or injustices we face every day.

It’s a day to acknowledge achievements, tackle prejudice, and proudly look back at how far we’ve come.

International Women’s Day is just that ‒ international ‒ so it’s celebrated globally on the same day, bringing together women from every corner of life.

What is the purpose of International Women’s Day?

The purpose of International Women’s Day is to shine a light on the issues and inequalities affecting women across the world, celebrate the achievements of women, and open discussions about how we can bring about positive change with equity and equality.

It’s all about uniting together to be the difference.

International Women’s Day is not about putting men down,  it is about gender equality ‒ that’s equality for men, women, non-binary people, and everyone in-between.

In fact, some people prefer to call IWD ‘Civil Awareness Day, ‘Anti-Discrimination Day’, or ‘Anti-Sexism Day’, to open it up beyond people who use the term ‘women’ to identify themselves.

Why do we need International Women’s Day?

Well, here are just some of the reasons:

  • Just 8.1% of all Fortune 500 companies have women as CEOs, with 1.2% being women of colour.
  • Women’s health problems are dismissed by doctors or they are subjected to longer wait times than men. And it’s even worse for women of color.
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) is still practiced in some places in the world, despite it having no health benefits and causing health and sexual problems later in life.
  • The gender pay gap is real ‒ women earn an average of 32% less than men for the same work.
  • Around the world, just 26 women are serving as world leaders.
  • 1 in 3 women globally have experienced some form of sexual assault.
  • Black women are 3 times more likely to have reported the death of a loved one as a recent challenge.
  • Men with disabilities are twice as likely to be employed as women with disabilities.
  • At the current rate of progress, it’ll take about 135 years to close the Gender Pay Gap.
  • Just 10 countries in the world offer fully equal rights for women in the workplace ‒ and no, the US and the UK didn’t make the cut.
I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.
Audre Lorde

Women of colour continue to have a worse experience at work

Despite progress over the years, women of colour continue to face significant discrimination at work. They experience similar types of microaggressions as they were two years ago. And although the number of White employees who identify as allies to women of colour has increased over the past year, the number taking real, profound action has not.

While all women are more likely than men to face microaggressions that undermine them professionally—such as being interrupted and having their judgement questioned—women of colour often experience these microaggressions at a higher rate. Women of colour are much more likely than White women to face disrespectful and “othering” microaggressions that reinforce harmful stereotypes.

Such experiences take a serious toll. Women who regularly experience microaggressions are twice as likely as those who don’t to be burned out and more than twice as likely to report feeling negatively about their job. They are almost three times as likely to say that in the past few months they have struggled to concentrate at work as a result of stress.

Women of colour not only still face higher rates of microaggressions, but they also still lack active allies. We continue to see a troubling gap. Less than half of those who consider themselves ‘allies’ take basic actions to do so, such as speaking out against bias or advocating for new opportunities for women of colour. Furthermore, there is a notable disconnect between the allyship actions that women of colour find most meaningful and the actions that White employees prioritise.

Given the day-to-day challenges they face, it’s not surprising that less than half of women of colour feel their company has substantially followed through on commitments to racial equity.


Women of colour face a wider range of microaggressions

All women are more likely than men to face microaggressions at work. But for women of colour and women with other traditionally marginalised identities, these experiences are more frequent and reflect a wider range of biases (Exhibit 6 below). For example, Black women are almost four times as likely as White women to hear people express surprise at their language skills or other abilities. There are similar patterns for other common microaggressions.


Exhibit 6

LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities are also significantly more likely than women overall to experience microaggressions. Women with disabilities in particular are much more likely than women overall to have their competence challenged or to be undermined at work.

The ‘allyship gap’ persists

Allyship from more privileged colleagues can make a big difference in the experiences of women of colour. When women of colour feel like they have strong allies at work, they are happier in their jobs, less likely to be burned out, and less likely to consider leaving their companies.

There is a notable disconnect between the allyship actions that women of colour say are most meaningful and the actions that White employees prioritise (Exhibit 7). Although White employees recognise that speaking out against discrimination is critical, they are less likely to recognise the importance of more proactive, sustained steps such as advocating for new opportunities for women of colour and stepping up as mentors and sponsors.

The road to progress

Despite changes in the last few years, women continue to be significantly underrepresented at all levels of management. On top of this, women continue to have a worse day-to-day experience at work. Women are more likely than men to have their competence questioned and their authority undermined.

To drive change, companies need to invest deeply in all aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This starts with taking bold steps to ensure that women of diverse identities are well represented.

But diversity of numbers isn’t enough on its own. Organisations also need to create a culture that fully leverages the benefits of diversity—one in which women, and all employees, feel comfortable bringing their unique ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the table. When women are respected and their contributions are valued, they are more likely to be happy in their jobs and to feel connected to their co-workers.

To accelerate progress for all women, on all fronts, companies need to double their efforts when it comes to accountability. Despite saying that gender and racial diversity are among their most important business priorities, only two-thirds of companies hold senior leaders accountable for progress on diversity goals, and less than a third hold managers accountable.

Moreover, among companies that say they hold leaders accountable, less than half factor progress on diversity metrics into performance reviews, and far fewer provide financial incentives for meeting goals. This means their accountability isn’t tied to material consequences—and it’s therefore much less likely to produce results.