Here are some great tips for writing IWD speeches and presentations
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 large scale 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 is 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.
Read more about International Women's Day here.
Engaging topics and angles to cover
Some engaging topics and angles to include in International Women's Day speeches and presentations include:
- The rise of women is not about the fall of men
- Everyone can play a role in forging gender parity
- Gender balance is not solely a women's issue, but also an economic issue
- What is bias and how does it play out?
- Advocacy, inclusive mindsets and tangible action are needed from all
Speeches and presentations can reference successful women and their achievements and this can provide great context for the speech or presentation and its audience.
Consider using a powerful and engaging IWD video to set some context for a speech and presentation.
Key points to convey
Some engaging angles to elaborate upon may on include:
- Many societies have moved on from women having to succeed in a man's world
- Gender stereotypes are being challenged and diverse representation of women is more evident
- There is still a continuing need worldwide for more progressive mindsets and inclusive behaviors to be forged
- There are many examples of gender bias - both conscious and unconscious - and each impacts women
- 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 well 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. Feminists faced many challenges - systemic and societal - not only from opposing men, but also from other women.
- Fix the women: The 1980's saw an array of "Fix the Women" programs 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 a focus on areas like '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 awards, 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; incremental data.
- Diversity & Inclusion: The 20-teens's saw an increasing focus on intersectional feminism and the important role that diversity and inclusion play in forging an equal world. "Men as allies" (i.e. men as advocates and champions of change), with this being recognized as a major element 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. Furthermore, the global rise of social media provided a greater voice to groups often marginalized or sidelined from positions of power. Increasingly the global collective conversation for feminism continued to open up and grow. Understanding, challenging and calling out gender stereotypes, bias and discrimination became more prevalent. In 2013, Lean In was founded to provide community, education and resources to support women's development, with an annual Women in the Workplace Study conducted with McKinsey & Company. The #MeToo movement (founded by activist Tarana Burke who coined the term “MeToo” in 2006) gained widespread attention in 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano urged victims of sexual harassment and assault to share their stories on social media. A global wave of activism and much needed change ensued. Much ground was made in the 20-teens, yet there was still a lot more to do.
- The world expects diversity, equity and inclusivity: And so here we are in the 2020's. The significant global rise in International Women's Day activity in every corner of the world - along with the many female-focused campaigns and initiatives worldwide - means gender is firmly on the agenda. As expectations rise and information spreads faster and wider than ever before, organizations face unprecedented scrutiny from candidates, consumers, communities, investors, governments, and the media in terms of their support for and treatment or women. Many employers now publicly publish annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) reports and participate in various indices and accolades.
Gender-related conversations and activity are certainly on the rise. Over the years, the term "International Women's Day" was one of the most discussed topic on Facebook by millions (even more than the Super Bowl). And back in 2018, Pantone's 'Color of the Year' was purple (i.e. women's color). Everywhere, gender is on the mainstream radar and impacting the narrative. Stereotypes, discrimination and bias are more likely to be called out. Men's role in society is more varied, and gender roles are more fluid.
We are moving to a very exciting time in history where the world now "expects" diversity, equity and inclusion. The world notices its absence and celebrates its presence.
Step back over the years. For example, International Women's Day 2016 saw people worldwide being asked to support women's equality and develop an inclusive mindset via a #PledgeforParity. Then for International Women's Day 2017, the world was asked to #BeBoldforChange and identify tangible action to help accelerate gender parity. International Women's Day 2018 saw a massive #PressforProgress as the world stepped forward to push the boundaries and go beyond in achieving greater equality for women. International Women's Day 2019 saw& groups continue to play a critical role in helping forge a more gender-balanced world as we worked towards a #BalanceforBetter. International Women's Day 2020, amidst the pandemic, saw an important wave of collective individualism as we all strived to be #EachforEqual - because we know that an equal world is an enabled world. Then in 2021, we saw widespread global adoption of the #ChooseToChallenge campaign theme as groups committed to actively watching for and calling out inequity. In 2022, we stepped up and increased awareness of the significant impact that bias has on women's equality - both conscious and unconscious bias. We need to recognize it, and call it out, and so we called to everyone to #BreakTheBias. In 2023, the world truly made a massive effort to understand the difference between equity and equality, and why treating everyone the same can be discriminatory, and why in fact equal opportunities aren't enough. As such, the world saw a considerable narrative about why and how to #EmbraceEquity.
And so here we are for IWD 2024, living in a world that's very turbulent, complex and exciting. Much is still needed to be achieved for women at work, at home, and in the community. For IWD 2024, we aim to collectively forge a more inclusive world for women - we aim to #InspireInclusion. When we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, context and conditions are created for women to excel. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there's a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment.
Insightful statistics to include
Download the Women in the Workplace Report report to gain a sense of where women are at on the long road to equality.
Or download the Global Gender Gap report that reinforces the growing urgency for action.
Whether covering the rise of women creatives, the work of 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 - insightful statistics and associated visuals are very engaging.
It is also worthwhile to refer to a summary of actions countries have taken around the world to help forge women's equality.
Use your voice and power on International Women's Day
Via Influential speakers and highly engaged audiences, International Women's Day has a global following with a shared purpose.
Let's use the opportunity of International Women's Day speeches and presentations to truly forge the gender agenda further and to make positive gains for women and girls worldwide.