Women heard: International Women's Day most talked about on Facebook

Interest in International Women’s Day grows on social networks

In a year when women broke the silence about the extent of the sexual harassment they have experienced and its impact on their personal and professional lives, it is perhaps not surprising that Facebook reported International Women’s Day was the most talked about topic on the social networking site. Women’s rights were a central part of the public discourse in 2017, 106 years after the first International Women’s Day was observed. In countries like the United Sates, IWD conversations topped those about the Super Bowl, and in Australia IWD conversations beat many other highly popular topics.
In October, roughly seven months after International Women’s Day on March 8 encouraged women to campaign and “Be Bold for Change,” actress Ashley Judd said she had been sexually harassed by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, an allegation that reverberated around the world as women and men spoke out about similar experiences.

Stories alleging that men in the entertainment business had assaulted women, curtailing their careers, began to roll out in news publications, leading Time magazine to choose “The Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo harassment campaign as its 2017 Person of the Year.

Judd; singer Taylor Swift, ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler; lobbyist Adama Iwu; and a strawberry picker, known by her pseudonym Isabel Pascual, were all selected for lifting the veil of silence around their experiences. Following their revelations, the #MeToo social media hashtag offered a global platform for women and men to speak up publicly about their experiences.

“The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s,” said Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal.

“The roots of Time’s annual franchise - singling out the person or persons who most influenced the events of the year -  lie in the so-called great man theory of history, a phrasing that sounds particularly anachronistic at this moment. But the idea that influential, inspirational individuals shape the world could not be more apt this year. For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, The Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year.”

Pro-active steps taken by women to “go public” over harassment on Facebook, Twitter and other social media and stake their rightful place in the workforce with greater confidence illustrates the important role International Women’s Day can play as a galvanization point for action.

International Women’s Day campaign continues well beyond one day

The annual observation for career women shows no sign of declining in importance. The Facebook report underscores the significant role International Women’s Day has played since it began, inspired in part by the activities of vote-seeking suffragettes in Britain at the turn of the last century.

The annual International Women’s Day campaign now provides a year-long point of reference and direction for women and groups, offering a framework for galvanising and uniting global activity aimed at accelerating gender parity.

Social media networks allow communities to connect in ways that were impossible historically. The #WomensDay hashtag goes viral each year and the annual campaign theme continues in popularity throughout the year.

Gender-based activism growing globally

After the revelations about inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment, the #MeToo social media hashtag offered a global platform for women and men to speak up about their experiences. So much so, that in fact online dictionary Merriam-Webster has dubbed “feminism” its word of the year, meaning it is the most-searched word on its website. Lookups for the definition of feminism increased by 70 percent from 2016 - 2017.

In 2017, the #BeBoldForChange campaign theme certainly saw gender activism continue well beyond International Women’s Day. The campaign was actively adopted by the U.S. Women’s National Hockey League Team. Each member of the team held up the messages with the hashtag #BeBoldForChange on Twitter and Instagram posts as they announced they would boycott the world championship unless an agreement was reached to improve wage and other support from USA Hockey.

Fans also voiced their encouragement with the #BeBoldForChange hashtag and just days before the world championship tournament was set to begin, USA Hockey and the U.S. Women’s National Team came to an agreement on pay and benefits that halted the boycott supported by NHL players and US senators. The two sides announced “an agreement that will result in groundbreaking support” for the women’s team and female athletes at all levels of the sport over coming years. Victory was theirs!

Pledging to help accelerate gender parity

In 2016, women, men and non-binary people celebrated significant socio-economic, political and cultural successes of women and they made a “Pledge for Parity” on International Women’s Day and well beyond, signifying their enthusiasm to help accelerate gender parity.

Many groups, networks, charities and corporations joined the International Women’s Day #PledgeforParity campaign to support gender equity in the workplace and elsewhere, including high profile cruise line company Cunard, which displayed a large banner on the side of one of its cruise ships in Australia’s Sydney harbour.

Even generic search engine Google got in on the act, creating an annual International Women’s Day-themed “doodle,” and in 2016 initiated a “One Day I will” campaign. In 2017, Google expanded its coverage, developing several doodles and videos.

2018 sees the world press for progress

In 2018, the International Women’s Day campaign theme is “Press  for Progress,” encouraging everyone to pursue gender parity, which sadly the World Economic Forum's (WEF) 2017 Global Gender Gap Report states is more than 200 years away. The 2018 Press for Progress campaign theme will continue from International Women’s Day throughout the year and serves as a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

Women becoming more visible at major forums

Not only did the World Economic Forum (WEF) gender gap report show the extent of disparity between women and men worldwide, but representation of women at WEF in Davos has traditionally been low. Significantly, in 2017, numbers increased to just over 20 percent, up from 18 percent in 2016 and 17 percent in 2015.

In 2018, however, women including International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and IBM’s chief executive Ginni Rometty, will chair  the World Economic Forum. Inspiring role models, these women have all broken the glass ceiling to reach the very top of their professions.

Next year, promises to keep up the momentum. On International Women's Day 2018, a vast range of activity will ensue. For example, a media alliance of 20 international newspapers will simultaneously publish stories on 20 exceptional women who’ve set up a social entrepreneur business.  

Gender parity and business go hand-in-hand for progressive companies

The emphasis on International Women’s Day is reflected by major global corporations who understand the importance of gender parity in hiring job candidates, customer base and serving their communities. Global professional services firm, EY, devotes considerable energy and attention to its Women. Fast Forward initiative that places women at the very centre of the firm’s decision making and activity.

Vodafone, as a further example, launched its ReConnect programme in 2017 to bring talented women from 26 countries into the workplace after a career break. The company also announced it would increase the number of women in management roles, and place a new “gender gap” focus in emerging markets customer base to bring transformative benefits of mobile networks and services to 50 million women in some of the world's poorest communities in India and Africa.

Connecting communities is highly plausible with social networking sites, which allow people to chat all around the world. The Facebook report showing that International Women’s Day was most talked about in 2017, shows that the significance of they day is not waning, but is entrenched as a key annual event, providing a platform for collective action and shared ownership in driving gender parity, which continues to expand its reach.

The pursuit of gender equality has been a long struggle, and women face unique challenges in countries around the world. However, through the use of social media, women can build momentum around topics of concern.

International Women’s Day belongs to all women everywhere

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist who addressed the sea of pink at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., once explained: "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

Each and every year, International Women's Day remains an important moment to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater gender parity. How will you press for progress?


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