22nd Feb 2022
3 Min Read

Help #BreakTheBias with authentic International Women's Day comms

Russell Norton
Russell Norton
People & Change

International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world, and to highlight the inequity that still exists between men and women.

The 2022 theme is #BreakTheBias, which pulls focus to the conscious and unconscious biases that stop us achieving true gender equality. The call to action is for everyone to take action against biases, stereotypes and prejudices towards women.

We’ve helped dozens of organisations to communicate International Women’s Day. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

Plan ahead

It can take around two months to pull together a strong campaign, especially if you want to include live events, videos or toolkits. Get started early to make the biggest impact.

Celebrate the good, but don’t ignore the bad

Many IWD campaigns encourage people to nominate their female role models at work and inspirational women in the wider world. While this is easy for lots of people to participate in, it can gloss over some of the biases and inequalities that women face at work and in life. Use IWD as an opportunity to remind people of gender inequality faced by women today.

Make it relevant

Your IWD activity will be particularly powerful if you focus on a topic that’s relevant to your consumers, your employees, or your industry. Don’t just limit this to your world of work but think about how gender inequality might impact your people at home or in their communities too.

Consider intersectionality

Women of colour, disabled women, women of faith, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender women are all disproportionately affected by biases and discrimination. While your women’s network or gender equality network (if you have them) are an important voice during IWD, this is a great opportunity for all networks to work together to highlight how the women within their communities are affected by gender inequality.

Separate Gender Pay Gap reporting from IWD

When Gender Pay Gap reporting was first introduced, it was given the headline treatment – often bundled together with International Women’s Day. Now that a few years have passed, Gender Pay Gaps are beginning to highlight the lack of action being taken to close the difference in pay between men and women in large organisations. This can make for underwhelming reading. IWD is a time to highlight the positive and correction action you are taking to decrease the Gender Pay Gap.

Pre-empt the cynics

“… but when’s International Men’s Day?” gets asked every year. It’s on 19th November and it serves as a reminder that men face issues specific to their gender too. For example, in the UK, suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. To demonstrate equality, it’s right to mark both International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day.

International Women’s Day serves a reminder that there is still a long way to go before our organisations and societies are structured in a way that offers the same opportunities to women as it does to men. It’s only by drawing attention to the biases and barriers that women face that we can all work together to reduce, overcome or eliminate them.

Even better if …

Calendar dates are a useful prompt to remind employees of your stance towards different societal issues. However, marking every single notable date in the calendar can become a full-time communications job and can be perceived as inauthentic. The most mature organisations are beginning to take a new approach.

They’re setting their own communications agendas. They’re bringing the topics of gender, gender identity and gender expression together into a single conversation and campaign, at a time that works for them. They’re focusing on working with women and men to dismantle the structures that favour men and talk about the issues that impact both men and women. Their headline message is about being better allies to each other and working towards true gender equality.

These organisations still celebrate International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day, but this activity is more likely to be led by the networks. Central comms and D&I teams focus instead on the structural changes, education, and conversation it takes to drive meaningful long-term change.

If you want to take a more strategic approach to your diversity and inclusion communications, drop me a line

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