Everyday is #iwd
Ladies, rejoice! Women’s History Month is about to kick off.
For thirty-one days we’ll actively be encouraged to feel empowered, to vocally extol the virtues of gender equality, and to roar to our hearts content. For four weeks we have the license to be strong, independent, unapologetic females… until April dawns and we retreat back into our shells: speak softly, smile frequently, buckle up our chastity belts, and be the agreeable humans we’re expected to be.
Obviously not. And we’re of course being facetious, but let’s for a moment ponder one truth: Women’s History Month lasts about four weeks. During 8.3% of the year—and mostly on March 8 (#InternationalWomensDay)—corporations and brands pull out all the stops to champion women and girls around the world, ideally in a way that generates a juicy profit. And then from April until the end of next February, it’s mostly a different tune. Gender opportunity gaps go unaddressed. Conversations on diversity and inclusion are intermittently checked off a to-do list with little afterthought. Any other time that gender is discussed at the executive level, it’s usual in the context of crisis management.
It’s infuriating. In 2021, the difference between average hourly earnings for men and women in the U.K. was over 15%. In the U.S. it was similar and in other countries much bigger, but the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to exacerbate all of these numbers considerably. (For evidence, look no further than the floods of headlines about women quitting their jobs. And no, it’s usually not by choice.) Women just hold 31 of the CEO positions at S&P 500 companies and the FTSE 100 features just eight women at the very top.
So yes, of course we applaud the idea of Women’s History Month. What we don’t applaud are the organizations that shout about it from the rooftops in March and then all but forget about the challenges facing half the population during the other 11 months of the year.
Instead of creating cute social posts about #IWD, how about offering better childcare? Better maternity benefits? Flexible work? Job-sharing opportunities? How about listening to women? How about responding to their needs? How about fundamentally redesigning the workplace so that everyone can thrive professionally and personally, whether it’s March 8, November 22 or June 30? (And the same goes for Black History Month, by the way.)