International Women's Day in the Workplace: 5 Ways to Celebrate

Rachel Greenway
Last updated on March 06, 2024

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on 8 March. It's an opportunity for people to celebrate the achievements of women throughout the world and highlight the continuing challenges that many women face.

The theme for International Women’s Day in 2024 is to #InspireInclusion. So, let's explore what IWD is, why it’s meaningful, and what your company can do to get involved. 

When was International Women's Day first celebrated?

The first International Women's Day was celebrated back in 1911. It was only marked by a few countries, including Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.

However, the earliest trace of a similar event predates even 1911. In 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women’s Day. Its creation was sparked by a labour movement that demanded that women work fewer hours, receive better pay and be given the right to vote.

In 1975, the United Nations (UN) officially recognised the event. Since then, the event has been celebrated every year on 8 March.

Why is International Women's Day celebrated on 8 March?

There are varying accounts as to why International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March.

The first link dates back to 1913 when Russian women celebrated the day on the last Saturday in February. At the time, the Julian calendar was in use and the corresponding date on the Gregorian calendar was 8 March.

Consequently, it was decided that the day should be formally celebrated on 8 March in the Gregorian calendar.

The following year, women across Europe marched in support of universal women’s suffrage and in protest against the ever-rising international tension that would eventually culminate in the First World War.

There is another theory as to why 8 March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. In 1917, Russian women commenced a strike for “bread and peace” in protest over the two million Russian soldiers who perished in WW1. The strike was the spark for the Russian Revolution.

International women's day history

How is International Women's Day celebrated?

In many countries, including Russia, Georgia, Angola, Ukraine and Zambia, the day is an official holiday. In China, the State Council advises that women are given half a day off work, while in Italy, the day is referred to as La Festa della Donna and is celebrated by giving out mimosa blossom.

How can my company celebrate International Women's Day?

Many companies choose to celebrate International Women’s Day in their own way. Some choose to run seminars and talks, while others like to do activities and raise money for women’s charities.

Here are a few more ideas for celebrating International Women’s Day:

Host a lunch & learn session to help educate

It’s something we’ve done here at PayFit, and it's a great way to raise awareness of the importance of this day. Organising a free and optional learning session can offer a jumping-off point for those wanting to be part of these conversations but who might be unsure how to get involved. 

To liven things up, you could invite a Q&A panel to answer questions about this year’s theme. The more engaging and inclusive you can make your session, the better.

Produce thank you videos to express appreciation 

Keen to do something a little more personal and express your gratitude? Thank you videos stand out and are a more personal than a company-wide email. You can get your whole team involved and get each person to share what inspires them to promote and support more inclusion in the workplace. 

Celebrating IWD

Celebrate women-owned businesses 

There are several ways you can help support and empower female-owned businesses, including purchasing their products and services (both on IWD and all year round!). If your business serves women-owned businesses as clients, you can also highlight their efforts with a social post.

There are many incredible charities doing great work for women, especially in the UK, including Girls Out Loud, Women in Sport, and Smart Works, among many others. A corporate donation can make a real difference for these organisations and help them achieve the impactful work they set out to do. You can also get a number of your co-workers involved to make their own donations, too. 

Make every day International Women’s Day at your workplace 

Of course, IWD may only come round once a year, but there are so many ways to keep the spirit alive throughout the year. An inclusive workplace isn’t something that’s built in a day but rather is something you can work on fostering every single day and that should fit into your greater D&I strategy. Remember small steps have big impact.  

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