In many countries in the northern hemisphere, March signifies the start of springtime. Flowers bloom, the days get longer and life returns to the world. As our energy rejuvenates, it’s a great time to appreciate those we care about and look forward to the exciting year ahead.
Fittingly, March also marks women’s history month, with March 8 dedicated to International Women’s Day (IWD) – a global holiday to honor the extraordinary women in your life. To help you and your team celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of office-friendly ideas for International Women’s Day 2023.
What is International Women’s Day?
There’s much debate around the origins of IWD. One story is that the Socialist Party of America held the first “Women’s Day“ in 1909 in New York City, inspiring an annual women’s day celebration within the socialist movement. We do know that the UN began celebrating March 8 as IWD in 1975, proclaiming it an official holiday in 1977.
Regardless of how it came to be, IWD represents the culmination of women’s rights movements’ hard work throughout the 20th century. It’s an annual reminder to reflect on women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. At the same time, it’s a chance to look back on our progress toward gender equality and acknowledge the work we still need to do.
13 International Women’s Day business ideas
With the holiday’s history and purpose in mind, let’s delve into some practical International Women’s Day event ideas and initiatives to celebrate the women in your workplace. Here are 13 business ideas for women’s recognition and celebration.
1. Promote the great female members of staff at your business
Highlighting the achievements of women within your organization is a superb way to recognize your female colleagues on IWD. Create social media posts that re-trace their journeys or profile women leaders on your website or in internal communications.
2. Run a women-focused professional development workshop or conference
Another way to empower women on IWD is to encourage their personal development. A panel discussion or speaker series with inspiring women could motivate your female employees to achieve their goals and teach them about the challenges female leaders face.
While an in-person event might encourage networking and one-on-one chats, hosting your event as a virtual meeting – for example, via Zoom – will let external attendees share the knowledge.
3. Endorse women-owned businesses and organizations
Endorsing female-owned businesses and organizations publicly or internally is another way to uplift women. For example, offer pro bono services to a women’s advocacy group to show your commitment to gender equality and encourage others to follow your lead.
You could also partner with women-owned businesses for joint promotions and discounts.
4. Offer mentorship or coaching opportunities to women within your organization
Mentorship opportunities are an easy and accessible way for female colleagues to expand their skill sets. For career support, you could offer a women-focused leadership development workshop or entrepreneurship seminar.
Hosting a self-defense or personal safety class could be a good option for more general support. The UN reports that almost one in three women suffers physical or sexual violence from a partner or sexual violence from a non-partner at least once. Offering female coworkers self-defense classes will help them stay safe and raise awareness of the dangers women still encounter.
5. Share stories about female customers or clients
Sharing stories about successful customers can help boost your business reputation, so honoring female customers can be an excellent way to celebrate IWD. Your customer-facing teams can help pinpoint your most triumphant female clients. With your client’s consent, showcase their success on social media platforms like LinkedIn.
6. Run special promotions that relate to your products
Every holiday is an opportunity to promote your product in an engaging, creative way, and IWD is no exception. Create a themed marketing campaign for your social media channels, invite users to participate in a giveaway or boost brand awareness with a limited-time gift card – the choice is yours!
7. Create educational assets for your usual marketing channels
Educate others about gender inequality and emphasize your organization’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion with a social media campaign. Use popular hashtags like “#EmbraceEquity” and “#IWD2023“ to spread your message and bring awareness to women’s struggles.
8. Plan a networking event for women in your industry
Try hosting an International Women’s Day event that helps your female colleagues chat and connect with other women in your industry. A speed-networking session could kick-start business relationships, generate new sales and marketing ideas and promote a sense of belonging in male-dominated spaces.
9. Host a company-wide diversity and inclusion training session
Although sales leaders tend to be satisfied with the diversity of their sales teams, evidence suggests a gender bias in the sales industry. Many saleswomen feel their experience and abilities are undermined, and studies show that women in the US continue to earn, on average, 18% less than men.
A company-wide diversity training session can help highlight women’s issues in the workplace and the progress we still need to make toward gender parity.
10. Share resources and information
Celebrate IWD by sharing women empowerment resources highlighting the importance of gender diversity. You could send office-wide emails with articles, videos or infographics about strong female figures. Try hosting a trivia night focused on women’s history and achievements for a more relaxed evening.
We’ve written this blog article about 13 inspiring female marketing leaders in case you need some ideas.
11. Organize a fundraiser to benefit a women’s organization
Rally your team members to hold a charity event, such as a bake sale, then donate the proceeds to a non-profit women’s organization. Hosting a fundraiser is a creative way to build team spirit while helping to empower women. It’s a win-win situation! And if you have any leftover cakes, you can eat those, too.
12. Create a scholarship or grant program to support female entrepreneurs
Now more than ever, women are setting up successful businesses. A recent report showed that in the first half of 2022, female entrepreneurs founded or co-founded 10% of unicorn companies (privately held startups valued at $1B or above). But there’s still a long way to go.
Help prospective female business owners climb the ladder with a fully-funded scholarship or grant program. By supporting women in business, you can contribute to closing the gender gap.
13. Advocate for policy change
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but having a platform can make effecting change easier. Advocating for gender equality policies is a practical way to pay homage to IWD.
In 2022, the World Economic Forum ranked the US 27th out of 146 countries for gender equality. By publicly supporting policies that help close the gender gap, you can encourage your customers to do the same.
Five examples of how businesses have recognized International Women’s Day
IWD is a great opportunity to get creative with your campaigns. Every year, companies worldwide develop innovative ways to uplift women and pay tribute to women’s history. Here’s a round-up of our favorite ideas from last year’s celebration.
1. Signs of change
Last year’s IWD theme was “#BreakTheBias” and language-learning company Babbel used the opportunity to reflect on women’s ongoing fight for equality. Marking the holiday with a blog post, Babbel broke down five iconic women’s rights posters this century. At the end of the article, they included a guide to making impactful poster designs, encouraging readers to stand up for their beliefs.
2. A tribute to the trailblazers
The London tube map – a criss-cross pattern of colorful lines against a white background – is easily recognizable, so Transport for London’s (TfL) IWD redesign made an eye-catching tribute. The themed update saw stations renamed after trailblazing women, from sports stars to medical heroes, and the backdrop changed to pink.
University College London collaborated with TfL to bring the map to life online. The interactive version includes in-depth biographies about each female figure mentioned, which open when users click the station names.
3. Core learning
The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) marked IWD 2022 with a gender and women’s rights activity pack for young people. The free pack guides adults on fostering a conversation about gender with the younger generation. It’s packed with templates that promote gender equity and female empowerment. The final section explores how climate change affects women and girls differently, inspiring young people to become climate heroes.
4. Sharing the love
If you could write a love letter to your younger self, what would it say? Spotify tackled this question as part of their IWD podcast series “With Love” created in collaboration with social impact agency Invisible Hand. The 24 podcasts feature a mix of female artists, storytellers and “changemakers”, with each participant sharing a love letter to their former self or someone who inspired their journey. The project aims to discuss what it means to be a woman and their impact on the world.
As well as the podcasts, Spotify spotlighted five charities dedicated to gender equity, creating music playlists for each and donating to support their work. The playlists featured internationally renowned artists like Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga and Diana Ross.
5. From bean to brew
Last year, Starbucks highlighted five key women from every stage of the coffee supply chain to celebrate IWD. The initiative covered roles ranging from farmer to district manager, highlighting the importance of women workers in Starbucks’ global community while bringing attention to their struggles, from gender inequality to civil war.
Despite their problems in the industry, the women acknowledge the opportunities that come from breaking through the gender mold. They reflect on their predecessors who paved the way and the importance of following your dreams.
International Women's Day: business dos and don’ts
As with any global awareness day, you should be tactful when celebrating IWD. Encouraging female empowerment within your workforce means little if you don’t practice what you preach.
Promote diversity and inclusion year-round rather than limiting efforts to an annual holiday. Support gender equality initiatives, regularly celebrate women’s achievements in your company and prioritize fair compensation for all employees. By advocating for open dialogue about gender equality issues within your workplace, you can ensure your female colleagues feel heard.
Don’t treat IWD as an opportunity to boost business profits. Instead, listen to the women in your company and address their problems. Include all genders in the conversation about women’s equality, so nobody feels unwelcome.
International Women’s Day is an annual opportunity to empower women and young girls while drawing attention to their ongoing struggles. Try out our office-friendly activities for International Women’s Day 2023 to emphasize the achievements of women in your company and the millions of strong women worldwide.
Remember: Equality is an ongoing effort, not just a box to tick off.
Happy International Women’s Day!