“The world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence”. For the organisers of International Women’s Day (IWD) to have written something like that in 1911, when the first event was held, would have been unthinkable. And yet, in 2019 the dial has shifted significantly further, along with the world’s consciousness, toward diversity and inclusion than ever before.
Today IWD brings individuals, governments, women’s organisations, businesses and charities around the world together every year to reflect on progress made - and to call for sustained effort and even greater change.
There have been plenty of developments to celebrate, most recently the introduction of mandatory reporting on the Gender Pay Gap, which was introduced in 2017, but the journey toward gender parity and diversity in the workplace continues to demand attention, energy and commitment.
This year, the IWD focus is on a world that is #BetterforBalance - a call-to-action for gender balance across the world.
Gender balance is essential for communities to thrive, both in social, economic, cultural and political terms. And advancing women in the workforce still offers one of the biggest opportunities to provide real impact and change. But while many organisations may be taking steps toward improving gender balance, we are still decades away from a state that allows us to realise the full potential of the female workforce.
According to the 2018 Hampton-Alexander review of women on boards, backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 100 companies in the FTSE 350 either have no female directors, or just have one – while 250 of the companies are not on track to meet the review’s gender diversity targets, which were set in 2016. Meanwhile, the Office of National Statistics puts the UK’s median gender pay gap at 17.9 per cent for 2018.
There’s still a lot of work to do. However, forward-thinking businesses know that gender balance, whether in the boardroom or the workforce at large, is not just a moral imperative or tick-box exercise – it has a compelling business case, providing a significant competitive and innovative edge in the modern commercial world.
Numerous pieces of research have borne this out in all manner of interesting ways – from a 2015 McKinsey report Why Diversity Matters, which found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean - to a study published in Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice journal that analysed levels of gender diversity in research and development teams and found those with more women were more likely to bring radical new innovations to market over a two-year period.
Other research repeatedly shows diversity benefits for businesses that range from an increased talent pool, and greater effectiveness and resilience to the power of different perspectives to improve problem-solving in teams.
All across the board, balance drives a better working environment, and as such #BalanceforBetter is a powerful vision.
Everyone has an individual part to play in creating a gender-balanced world - and collective action is vital to amplify the message. This year’s IWD will bring the inspiring vision of a gender-balanced world into focus with talks, performances, rallies, networking events and marches in more than 100 countries.
At everywoman, we will be adding to the conversation with IWD activities, including the 2019 everywoman in Tech Forum and a special IWD podcast episode with tech leader and winner of the Male Agent of Change Award at the 2018 FDM everywoman in Tech Awards, Russ Shaw, on the need for collective action to accelerate gender parity.
Ultimately, balance is a work in progress and the energy of the #BalanceforBetter 2019 campaign doesn't end on International Women's Day – it runs all year long, reminding us to continue to keep pushing forward in order to achieve success.
How you can get involved
- Post your #IWD2019 message on social media with the 2019 campaign’s "hands out" balance pose for a call-to-action for others to also help forge a #BalanceforBetter
- Check out our social media toolkit to help you to create your own #BalanceforBetter campaign for IWD 2019
- Join one of the events happening around the world. To find out what’s on where you live or work (or register your own event) click on the IWD website.