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Beyond Flowers and Platitudes: Reclaiming the Essence of International Women’s Day

March 17, 2024
Diversity & Inclusion

Every year on March 8th, social media blossoms with celebratory messages for International Women’s Day (IWD). Amidst a sea of congratulations, one might pause to reflect: What exactly are we being congratulated for? Being women? Our gender identity isn’t a matter of achievement or choice—it’s a facet of our being.

This raises an unsettling question: Are we inching closer to the superficiality of “Secretary’s Day,” where acknowledgment is often limited to tokens of appreciation, missing the depth of the contributions and struggles IWD intends to honor.

International Women’s Day was born from a revolutionary fabric—rooted in the early 20th-century movements for women’s rights, suffrage, and labor equality. It’s a day steeped in the struggle for gender equality, recognition of women’s contributions across all spheres of life, and a call to action for accelerating gender parity. So, when our accomplishments are condensed into a bouquet or a well-intentioned yet fleeting social media post, the essence of IWD seems to dilute into a mere gesture, rather than a call for meaningful change.

This year, the International Women’s Day theme, “Inspire Inclusion,” highlighted a crucial dimension of the equality equation. Diversity is the “what” – the representation of varied identities and experiences at the table. Inclusion, on the other hand, is the “how” – ensuring those diverse voices are not only present but heard, valued, and given the platform to make a tangible impact. True inclusion means creating environments where everyone feels visible and influential regardless of what makes them diverse.

In an era where equality should be woven into the fabric of our societies and businesses, IWD offers a timely checkpoint for reflection and action. Rather than settling for congratulatory messages, it’s imperative to shift the narrative towards the tangible strides made towards gender equality and inclusive practices.

For the next International Women’s Day, let’s pivot from platitudes to tangible progress reports. It’s time for companies to present their strides toward gender parity, especially within their boards, executive committees, and management teams. We call on organizations to disclose not just policies but the outcomes of their diversity hiring practices, details on the advancement of women into pivotal roles, and concrete steps taken to resolve pay equity. Achievements in these domains truly merit celebration.

We must all be the catalysts for change, promoting an environment where every individual has the opportunity to lead and inspire. After all, flowers may wilt, but the impact of genuine progress and inclusivity endures.

Els De Cremer, Founding Partner, Borderless Executive Search

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