On Saturday March 8th the world will be celebrating the 103rd International Women’s Day (IWD). This celebration emerged at the turn of the twentieth century from the activities of labour movements in North America and across Europe. Today IWD has grown to become a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.
What is International Women’s Day?
In 1975, the United Nations added IWD to their annual agenda during that year’s International Women’s Year. Since then it has become a tradition that is marked with a message from the UN Secretary-General as well as with statements and events from across the UN system. The UN also refers to IWD as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
IWD has increasingly become a time to reflect and take stock on what progress has been made towards gender equality, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. With the current day focus on the observation and strengthening of the political and social awareness of women, many global corporations have started to more actively support IWD. We see examples of this with companies running their own internal events and supporting external activities.
In Canada, ScotiaBank is providing tremendous support. Globally we can expect to see search engine and media giant, Google, to honor the day with a special logo on their global search pages. Both men and women, including political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs and television personalities will be speaking at various events. Purple ribbons will be pinned on people of all cultures, religions and locations who have come together in unison to celebrate women’s achievements and to remind one another of what has yet to be accomplished.
International Women’s Day Themes
Inspiring Change is the 2014 theme for the IWD global hub and encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change. The United Nations has declared their 2014 theme as “Equality for women is progress for all”. Individual countries and groups are invited to select their own International Women’s Day theme, specific to their local context and addressing their particular issues.
The International Paralympic Committee has selected their own theme – “To enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.”. Five extraordinary women are short listed for the International Women’s Day Recognition Award that will be presented during a special ceremony on March 8th at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games.
Each year, Canada’s theme begins with Strong Women. Strong Canada.
- 2013 was “Working Together: Engaging Men to End Violence against Women”
- 2012 was “Women in Rural, Remote and Northern Communities: Key to Canada‘s Economic Prosperity”.
This year Canada’s theme highlights the important role women entrepreneurs are playing in driving growth, creating jobs, and fostering innovation in the Canadian economy.
- 2014 “Canadian Women – Creating Jobs One Business at a time”.
Increasing we are seeing the number of women on boards, panels and juries becoming more common place although gender parity at the leadership level still requires more attention. Study after study has proven that companies that wish to survive and thrive in this complex, globally connected future would be well advised to include women on their executive teams. It has been discovered that gender-balanced executive committees have a 56% higher operating profit than companies with male-only committees. Currently women make up only about 11 per cent of directors on the boards of companies in the S&P/TSX composite index.
This is not to say that there should be any tokenism or suggest that quotas be set. Personal experience has shown me that evenly divided teams teams have provided compelling outcomes and supported me in producing more President’s Club winners than any of my male peers. Eventually it was suggested to my counterparts that they might want to consider tapping into the unique strengths of the other half of population.
Today successful organizations recognize that a natural extension of good business practice is to foster gender diversity because it leads to greater market reach, improved services and a positive contribution to their communities.
Statistics show that women business owners are critical to the Canadian economy in numerous ways
- Women business owners employ some 1.7 million Canadians.
- Canadian women are creating jobs at four times the national average.
- More than 900,000 of the 2.6 million self-employed workers in Canada are women.
- Small and medium-sized enterprises with a majority of women owners accounted for more than $117 billion in annual economic activity in Canada.
- Women business owners are engaged in international trade, with almost 40 percent of their sales generated in foreign markets.
- Four out of five businesses are started by women.
Women entrepreneurs are critical to the growth and competitiveness of the Canadian economy. We all benefit when women’s businesses succeed, creating jobs and prosperity. That’s why this year Canada chose the theme they did –
“Strong Women. Strong Canada. Canadian Women – Creating Jobs One Business at a Time”.
Please take a few minutes to enjoy the three links below.
“Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the President’s spouse. I wish him well!”
~ Barbara Bush