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International Women's Day provides a useful opportunity to reinforce the fact that everyone has a role to play in forging a more gender-balanced world. IWD is for celebrating the achievements of women and/or calling for gender parity.
Around the world - from small grassroots gatherings and local celebrations, through to largescale events and press conferences - people everywhere are delivering exciting and engaging speeches and presentations that reinforce a commitment to women's equality and rally action and awareness raising.
Below are some useful points to cover in IWD addresses - whether addressing young children, employees in the workforce, members of the community, public audiences or the press.
About International Women's Day
Even though International Women's Day is a well-known moment in most countries, it's often helpful to still set some context.
International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The day has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Prior to this the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom's Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women's equality. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.
Engaging topics and angles to cover
Some engaging topics and angles to include in International Women's Day speeches and presentations include:
- A balanced world is a better world
- The rise of women is not about the fall of men
- Everyone can play a role in forging gender parity
- Gender balance is not a women's issue, it's an economic issue
- Advocacy, inclusive mindsets and tangible action are needed from all
Some speeches and presentations cite great women and their achievements as relevant to the specific context for the speech or presentation and its audience.
Key points to convey
Some engaging angles to elaborate on include:
- Many societies have moved on from women having to succeed in a man's world
- Stereotypes are being challenged and more diverse representation of women is more evident
- There is still a continuing need worldwide for more progressive mindsets and inclusive behaviours to be forged
- Collectively everyone everywhere can strive for women's equality and continue to make positive gains
Setting some interesting historical context
The path to women's equality has been long and challenging, and here are some reasons why. Each stage provided an important focus in forging the gender agenda further along.
- Activism: In the late 1800's and early 1900's, women activists fought hard for equality. The focus was largely on securing the right to vote and equal pay for equal work. These two issues - women's voice and participation in government; and the gender pay gap - largely remain key priorities over a century later.
- Feminism: Fast-forward to the 1970's and widespread feminist action saw women rallying, protesting and lobbying hard for inclusion, influence and equality.
- Fix the women: The 1980's saw an array of "Fix the Women" progams that were well-meaning in trying to help women become more confident, visible, well-networked and assertive - but many reinforced a notion that women needed to "act like men" and "fit" into existing patriarchal structures and organizations if they were to succeed (all while still being a superwoman in the home). Shoulder pads, power suits, high heels and a loud voice were in fashion.
- Change the organization - The 1990's and noughties focused on organizational development: "Maybe if we change or fix the organizational structures, women will thrive?" So areas like the focus on women in the boardroom escalated, as did more diverse recruiting, inclusive talent pipelines, and attention to wider diversity groups beyond gender such as race, LGBT+ and so forth. The introduction of "Top Company" and "Top Women" style lists occurred and as they increased in popularity, the number of new lists launched each year increased exponentially. The number of women's conferences and networks also increased significantly - and continue to play an important and necessary role across all countries. The volume of gender-related research also increased - new insight, new terms and understandings, new phrases, measurement of the extent of problems or success; hard facts and numbers.
- Men as allies: In more recent years, men as advocates and champions of change have been recognized as playing a key part in accelerating women's equality. Many progressive CEOs and influential leaders have committed via formal public channels to helping build diverse and inclusive organizations that challenge stereotypes and bias.
- The world expects balance: And so here we are - 2020 is on the near horizon. Movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and the significant global rise in International Women's Day activity in every corner of the world - along with the many female-focused days and initiatives around the world - mean gender is firmly on the agenda!
2017 and 2018 saw International Women's Day as the most discussed topic on Facebook by millions (even more than the Super Bowl). Pantone's color of the year last year was purple (women's color). Everywhere, gender is on the mainstream radar and impacting the narrative. Stereotypes and bias are more likely to be called out. Men's role in society is more varied and gender roles are fluid.
We are moving to a very exciting time in history where the world now "expects" gender balance. The world notices its absence and celebrates its presence. Step back a few years and the world was asked to #PledgeforParity for IWD 2016 and develop an inclusive mindset. Then in 2017 the world was asked to #BeBoldforChange and identify tangible action to help accelerate gender parity. Last year saw a massive #PressforProgress as the world stepped forward to push the boundaries and go beyond to achieve greater equality for women. And now, in 2019, we can all continue to play a critical role in helping forge a more gender-balanced world as we work towards a #BalanceforBetter.
Insightful statistics to include
Download the IWD Lean In State of Women at Work presentation to provide a sense of where women are at on the long road to equality.
Whether it's in relation to women film directors, the status of equal pay, scientific prizes awarded to women, the number of women leading in government, or women in the boardroom - these insightful statistics and associated visuals are very engaging.
You'll also see a great summary of recent actions countries have taken around the world to help forge women's equality.
Use your voice and power on International Women's Day
Influential speakers, engaged audiences - International Women's Day has a global following with a shared purpose. Let's use International Women's Day speeches and presentations to truly forge the agenda and make a difference for women of the current and girls of the future.