First recognized by the suffragettes in 1911, International Women’s Day is not only a day that celebrates the social, political, economic, and cultural achievement of women, but also is a call to action to accelerate gender parity and women’s rights around the world.
Last year, we united together to #PressForProgress to work towards achieving gender equality after hearing that the gender gap will most likely take over 217 years to close. This year, we continue working towards that goal where the theme‘s calls for a better gender-balanced world and put a stop to gender bias. As the website cites, “from grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence. Balance drives a better working world”.
Fact is, gender balance doesn’t only benefit women, it benefits everyone. It isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a social and business issue that we need to address.
When we move towards a future with balance…
- Women and girls around the world will have the same opportunities as men and boys socially, economically, and culturally. Girls will be able to go to school and learn, instead of being sold off as a child bride. Mothers can start a business creating and honing their craft to support their families and invest in their communities, rather than feel powerless and dependent on their husbands.
- The playing field will finally be leveled as women will be respected and valued enough to be paid as much as a man for the same job.
- Our society won’t feel the need to label gender in recognition, programming, or leadership categories anymore because women and men can finally compete in the same categories and are recognized equally.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Gender balance cannot be achieved alone by women, it has to be a partnership with men as well. Lack of support from men will only stall progress. Although the goal may seem far-fetched, small steps will pave the way. While the majority of us will use social media this week to echo this important goal, what else can we do in our everyday life to raise awareness and promote gender balance?
Create an inclusive and safe work environment
In the era of #metoo, #timesup, and #blacklivesmatter, fostering diversity and equal representation in gender, race, and nationalities are crucial at a workplace. Inclusion gives everyone an opportunity to contribute ideas, promotes innovative thinking, and strengthens culture belonging. Not only does it offer different perspectives and solutions to problems, it can create greater potential for positive change.
Inclusion is more than a checkbox, it’s a mean for survival.
For example, I work as a conference planner for a health/medical not-for-profit association and my team works with many physicians, cardiologists, specialists on various committees to bring our scientific programming to life at our annual congress. In a report dated 2016, there are only 22% of female cardiologists in Canada, which is extremely low since heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. Something we recently strive to do at the beginning of each year is to ensure the 3 G’s are represented across our committees and advisory boards: Gender, Generation, and Geographic Location. This way, we are taking a first step at working towards achieving balance and ensuring the needs of our delegates are being represented, met, and heard.
Creating an inclusive workplace is a work in progress. At minimal, we have to include women of different backgrounds and ethnicity to have a seat at a table where important decisions are made. We cannot afford to ignore the talent and contribution of half of the population anymore.
Champion other women online and offline
We work, collaborate, and engage with many women throughout the day. Whether it is a co-worker, small business owner, freelancer, supplier, or friend, we are surrounded by many talented, fabulous, and creative women within our communities.
Recognition and recommendation can go a long way. For a small business owner, freelancer, or an aspiring artist, engagement such as a comment or share over our personal social media channels can reach at least a hundred new potential people that she hasn’t had a chance to reach before. Offline, we can easily set-up face-to-face coffee dates and bring women together from different backgrounds. When we do our small part and pay it forward, we are working together to ensure women’s work are being heard and seen.
Let’s show the world what value women bring to the world and recognize all the hard work they have done.
Boost other women’s confidence up
Lastly, to achieve a gender-balanced world starts with us. As women, we have to first support one another and not tear each other down. Jealousy, comparison, and sabotage will not get us to a balanced world, they will only set us back.
Boosting another woman’s confidence up is not as complex or difficult as we think. It can be as easy as giving a co-worker a compliment on a Wednesday morning, or encouraging your aspiring business friend to step outside of their comfort zone so that we could continue to grow and thrive. We now live in a world where we are more than connected than ever, but we aren’t maximizing it to its full potential. Let us use it positively to be kind to one another and work towards breaking that ceiling.
Because, let’s face it: when we feel confident in who we are and what we do, it changes us. Confidence gives us a sense of purpose and belonging that tells us what we are doing matters and that we can make the world a better place.
What are some other ways you are incorporating into your daily routine at achieving gender balance? I’d love to hear from you!
Download/Save our #BalanceForBetter affirmations below and let’s use our voice online to help advocate for a gender balanced world. Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram/Facebook (@discoverherproject) and Twitter (@discoverherprjt)! Make sure you use the official IWD hashtag #BalanceForBetter and our’s #HerTimeToLead!
Here in Ottawa, here are some awesome events taking place in celebration of International Women’s Day this week:
- March 4: Women’s Leadership Summit, hosted by University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Franklin Templeton Investments
- March 5: CEO Talk – Women In Business, hosted by Ottawa Board of Trade and Ottawa Business Journal
- March 5: Grow your biz with SHE BIZ, hosted by SHE BIZ and Startup Ottawa
- March 6: 11th Annual Women In Business Conference
- March 7: International Women’s Day Summit, hosted by Elevate International in collaboration with the University of Ottawa, Willis College and Kind Village
- March 8: Mayor Jim Watson’s International Women’s Day Breakfast at City Hall
- March 8: Walk In Her Shoes, hosted by CARE Canada
- March 8: Feminist Mixer, hosted by Feminist Twins,The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, and EmpowHer Network
- March 9: The Women in the World Conference, hosted by World Vision
- March 10: Ottawa Women’s Self-Defense Seminar, hosted by Storm Innovations Inc. and Mighty Maestro Fitness
- March 15: Women Leaders in Business: Innovation for Sustainable Development, hosted by UNA-Canada
- March 19: Ottawa’s WE Talk Business Boot Camp, hosted by BDC
- March 20: Entrepreneurship and Leadership Program for Girls, hosted by Startup Canada, JA Ottawa, ambiSHEous™, and the Telfer Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership
- March 25: The Women’s Adventure Film Tour, hosted by Adventure Film Tour
For information on other cities, head on over to the International Women’s Day website and visit their city events page to see what else is happening around you. Another fantastic avenue would be going on Eventbrite or Facebook events.
“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.” – Gloria Steinem
Seeing people succeed while doing what they love fires her up like no other. Aside from being the co-founder of DiscoverHER Project, Jess is a meeting planner by day and a wedding planner by night. Jess is passionate about giving girls and women around the world the same tools she used to get to where she is today. She believes in wearing her heart on her sleeve, doing everything out of a place of love, and empowering people around her to do the same. When she isn’t in front of a screen, she’s most often found eating tacos, wandering around a book store, or off exploring the world.