Why do we celebrate International Women’s Day?

By Amelia Lafratta.

Why do we celebrate International Women’s Day? It is a moment to stop and reflect on the progress women have made towards gender equality in society, but also a time to think about how much disparity still exists.

History teaches us that the first celebration of Women’s Day was organised in New York on February 28, 1909 by the Socialist Party, when a group of factory workers protested against women’s working conditions. Hence, it became a widespread tradition in many countries around the world to recognise women’s social and political rights one day a year. Another story related to the origin of the commemoration is to remember the one hundred and fifty women who lost their lives in a factory fire in 1911 in New York. Many events have been identified to start this celebration, but the fact remains that it is an important cause to be recalled every year, especially considering that gender equality is still an ideal and not a reality.

There is a lot of discussion about women’s position in the workplace. A frequent topic is how women must act to be respected in senior roles. Often they adopt masculine traits, such as being authoritative, visible and assertive – when they would naturally behave as modest, quiet and humble. The question is, of course, how much of these behaviours have been hardwired by society to teach that women must “know their place” and that leaders are imperative, harsh and demanding. Can women be their authentic self and climb the business ladder without being overlooked as “bossy” or “bitchy”?

Here is an insightful article on women taking visible roles in the workplace:

Another theme is about how women express their emotions, particularly in the workplace. What is acceptable and what is frowned upon? If women get angry, it’s because they are having a mood swing, or they can’t hold it together – rather than being their need to voice how they feel or to make a point. In business, it becomes even more highlighted that anger and indignity are not appropriate, women can’t lose their temper and they have to stay silent if they witness injustice.

This is a powerful and provocative talk about women expressing their rage and how it is received by society:

How can we change the way women are perceived and how their behaviours are judged? Be a champion for the women at your workplace, stand up for them, whether you are a man or a woman.

Suggested talks by successful women in business:

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, gives women advice to enter the C-suite

Dame Stephanie Shirley, the most successful tech entrepreneur who founded an all-women software company in the 1960s