The Annual Phenomenon of International Women’s Day

What Makes Me Glad, Mad and Sad Once a Year, Every Year

I am a gender equality consultant, researcher and speaker. Every year, there is this phenomenon called International Women’s Day. Like Christmas and Easter, this celebration comes around each year. Like Christmas and Easter, the preparations and lead up to the big day seems to occur earlier! Each year, I get glad, mad and sad about IWD. Let me explain.

I Get Glad Because …

I get busy! Good busy! As a business owner, that is a good thing, because it means that I am positively impacting my business. As a woman, it’s a good thing, because it means more people want to hear what women have to say on IWD.

I am happy that there is a day (which is becoming bigger each year on the events calendar) that visibly celebrates the achievements and advancements of women along with providing a high-profile platform to highlight just how far we still have to go to ensure women have rights and opportunities equal to men.

I Get Mad Because …

IWD has become an easy (lazy) tick-the-box exercise for some organisations to say that they support and empower women. Actual commentary I heard recently “we support women here; we have a big IWD event every year!” OK, so how about the other 364 days in the year, how is that working out for women in your workplace? Heard of the gender pay gap?

I get asked to speak, a lot, during March. Angela Pippos recently tweeted, “Speak for free on International Women’s Day – oh the perverse symbolism!”

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Seriously, for-profit companies must stop asking self-employed expert women to donate their services to your event. If you haven’t got budget to pay for a female expert, then either sort out your budget or tell me how you will enjoy putting in at least 2 days of work for free (yes, that’s how long it takes an expert to prepare for a GREAT keynote). It is just not on and reinforces the stereotypes that women are the giver, the nurturer and shouldn’t be asking for equal pay. Sorry, I am not going to sacrifice my financial wellbeing to nurture some shareholders profits!

I Get Sad Because …

IWD events are in danger of becoming just that little bit exclusive. In many cases they are costly, held in work hours and do not necessarily consider how to be more inclusive of the women that need the most help in our society. Women who are vulnerable, disenfranchised, not Anglo-Celtic, not privileged are often excluded for very practical, but easy to fix, reasons from the empowering and uplifting experience of an IWD event.

So please, have a think about how you might get some more diversity into your event by considering women from all walks of life and how they might be included.

Back to Glad …

But let’s get back to what makes me glad about IWD. I’m glad because many women in my network see this as a very special day just about them. I’ve asked some of these women to reflect on and share their thoughts about International Women’s Day

Megan says:

“IWD is a time to celebrate women. It’s also about taking practical acts of inclusion. My focus is breaking down gendered views of jobs and encouraging women and men into leadership, operations and trades. 

I’m attending two very different events this year. The first is a Women in Gin event at Brogan’s Way Distillery in Richmond celebrating three women distillers – Dr Dervilla McGowan ~ Anther Spirits, Holly Klintworth ~ Bass & Flinders Distillery, Brogan Carr ~ Brogan’s Way Distillery. Proceeds from the event will go to Fitted for Work, a charity helping disadvantaged women back into employment.

The second is the Facility Management Association of Australia’s behind the scenes look at the Arts Centre Melbourne. This will involve curated tours of the venues and celebrating the women in facility management that make a Melbourne icon come to life.

I love IWD as I get to spend time with the women who have my back and inspire me, plus focus on what we can all do to make this world truly gender balanced.”

Carla says:

“IWD is a time to come together, get the lay of the land, understand what ground has been gained/lost, get across what we need to do together. Also have someone who helps change mindsets. Oh, and all panels to have mandatory diversity.”

Nicole says:

“IWD is a platform to focus entirely on women’s stories, arts, achievements, voices, protests, intersectionality, and reflect on ‘where are we going’? This is important because usually things like unconscious (and conscious) bias interrupt women’s voices. In the effort to be ‘fair’ we fail to recognise that women are often perceived to be talking much more than men and then we miss vital opportunity for consciousness raising. For example, I once sat in an audience to see a panel discussion for IWD on which there were 5 highly accomplished women and one man. The host who was female spent 75% of the time interviewing the man. She didn’t even realise she was doing it because ‘social norms’ (and to his credit, he did, and was trying to move the discussion towards other panelists, but it was really a bit of a kerfuffle).

For IWD2019 I’m on the organising committee at the community radio station I volunteer and present with. We have all female presenters and all female music on all day, and some of the shows will include interviews with local women and/or will be telling tales about women’s awesomeness even in the face of adversity. Local businesses will also be chipping in to sponsor IWD, having messages read out on that day (we live in a small town). The station has been doing this for years, so it’s nice to be a part of it myself and contribute some of my energy and skills.”

Lauren says:

“To me it is focusing on and celebrating the achievements of all the amazing women out there. To also keep conversations going and bringing it to society’s attention that there is still more work to be done in achieving gender balance and equality. 

I will be at work for IWD and we have organised a panel discussion with 4 guest speakers to focus on the balance for better theme. Panel questions will be around equality in the work force, where and how it has worked well, and what can be implemented to aid change. We will also be having a BBQ lunch where we each bring a photo of an inspirational women in our life.”

And finally…Holly says:

“I’m heading to Rugby 7s game to watch the girls! Followed by the chairmen’s dinner… can’t wait!!”

A woman after my own sporting heart!

March 2019 sees me doing about 18 speaking, facilitation or MC gigs to talk about, celebrate, educate and champion women in sport and business. It will be a beautifully busy month where I can use my influence to have greater impact for women.

Rest assured, once March is a fond but distant memory, I’ll still be celebrating and championing women right throughout the year, the next year and the one after that, in fact that will keep happening until I can celebrate and champion no more. Because that’s what I do, that’s why I exist, to impact positively on women from all walks of life. Like many, many other women, I am determined that IWD will one day be a celebration about how women are finally equal – socially, politically and economically. But in the meantime, please have a great International Women’s Day, celebrating in whatever way works for you.

This article was originally published by Advancing Women, and authored by Michelle Redfern

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.