International Women’s Day 2020: How to Be #EachforEqual Every Day

Happy almost International Women’s Day! Sunday, March 8th, marks the 45th annual International Women’s Day. It’s a global day that is intended to honor women’s rights and their contributions to the political, economic, social and cultural spheres. 

While the UN formalized its observance in 1975, the first IWD gathering can be traced back to 1911, when more than one million people rallied to campaign for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, hold public office, and end discrimination. 

You might be wondering: If IWD started well over a century ago, then why are we still here?

The answer is simple: It’s 2020 and we’re far from living in an equal world. That’s not to say we should lose sight of the gains that have been made and the women before us who paved the way; certainly, IWD is a time to celebrate how far we’ve come, but we should also use it to reaffirm our commitment to equality and mark a call to action for accelerating change. If progress continues at the current rate, it will take almost 100 years to close the gender gap… we can’t wait that long! 

So, let’s make it happen. Let’s all be #EachforEqual

Here’s how each one of us can play a part. 

© Photograph: Cole Ndelu: EyeEm

The Stats: Where We Stand Today

  • In government: Women lead just 14 of 195 countries.
  • In the boardroom: Only 7% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women.
  • In media and advertising: Women make or influence 85% of consumer purchases, yet 30% of women see brands’ advocacy for women as an excuse to drive sales.
  • In STEM: Just 30% of the world’s researchers are women.
  • Around the world: Women are paid 23% less globally.


But, we know that diversity benefits everyone. Consider this:

  • Companies with more women in power perform better and have fairer family policies.
  • Diverse teams are more innovative, productive, and profitable.
  • Diverse and inclusive teams are more productive, engaged, and committed. 


What You Can Do

We all have the power to create a more equal world. Here’s how you can choose to be #EachForEqual this International Women’s Day. 


Check Your Bias at the Door

Unconscious bias is no longer unconscious once you are aware of inequities that exist in the workplace, whether it’s the gender pay gap or that corporate policies are not allowing women or minorities to advance. Learn how to recognize bias in yourself and others so that you can put the right practices in place.

Equality hack: Become conscious of your unconscious

  • Write down three practices in your company that possibly promote inequalities, like the process for evaluating resumés, the way meetings are run, or even everyday words and phrases. Next to each one, jot down how they could let biases slip in. 
  • To take things one step further, consider people’s overlapping identities and experiences. This will help you understand the complexity of prejudices they might face. There are myriad biases — gender, race, and age are some of the more common — and an equally enormous amount of ways they creep into our everyday life.


Ring the Interruption Bell

If you sit in on a meeting with coworkers who are at the same professional level, you’ll most likely notice that men sit front and center while women tend to gravitate toward the edges of the room, away from positions of power. 

Women also get less airtime in meetings, men interrupt women almost three times more often than they interrupt other men, and women receive less credit for their ideas.

Equality hack: Place an interruption bell in every meeting room

  • Call out interruptions when you see them. If a woman is interrupted, speak up and say that you’d like to hear her complete her thought. 
  • Give credit. When a coworker takes credit for a woman’s idea, remind everyone where it came from by saying, “Great idea…thanks to [her name] for sharing it.”
  • Make room for other viewpoints. If you see a woman struggling to make her voice heard in a conversation, tell the rest of the room that you’d like to hear other points of view.

When you amplify women at work, they don’t just benefit— you’re looked at as a role model. Bottom line? We all bring something valuable to the table. So, let’s all agree to make meetings the most effective by giving everyone the chance to contribute.


Break the Double-Bind 

A confident man is usually deemed “assertive,” while a woman who expresses her opinions in a direct manner is deemed “aggressive.” They are synonyms, to be sure, but they have completely different connotations. Just think about it. For a man,  “assertive” is a compliment. For a woman, “aggressive” is a dig.

Here’s proof: A study of performance reviews revealed that 66% of women received negative feedback on their personal style such as, “You can sometimes be abrasive,” whereas 1% of men received that same type of feedback.

Equality hack: Bias correct your language 

  • Think of biased-laced words that have been used to describe you — or ones that you’ve used to describe someone else — and correct them. For example, replace “emotional,” “pushy,” and “bossy” with “emotional“ and “passionate.” Or, instead of “pushy,” use “persuasive.” See how one simple word can be a catalyst for gender equality?
  • Give her the benefit of the doubt: When you hear a woman described in bias-laced terms, request a specific example of what she did. Then, ask that person if he or she would have the same reaction if a man did the same thing.
  • Self-reflect: When you respond negatively to a woman at work, reverse the question (“Would I have the same reaction if a man did the same thing?”)


Celebrate the Accomplishments of Women

Women are often given less credit for successful outcomes and blamed more for failure. A recent study by a Harvard Ph.D. candidate found that men get about the same amount of credit when they write a research paper with a mixed-gender team as they do when they’re the sole author. Women get almost zero credit when they write a paper as part of a team with a man on it.

Moreover, women and men react to recognition in different ways. Women typically credit our accomplishments to external factors such as “getting lucky” and “help from others,” while men attribute their accomplishments to innate qualities and skills. They own their success as theirs. Conversely, when women celebrate our own accomplishments, we are often penalized for being too “self-promotional.” As a result of these dynamics, the contributions of women can go overlooked. 

Equality hack: Embrace Shine Theory 

  • Know there’s power in the pack. Although women are often penalized for promoting ourselves, you can spotlight other women, and they can do the same for you. It’s called Shine Theory, which follows the simple premise that “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” 
  • Emphasize the successes of your female coworkers. For example, when introducing female coworkers, you might follow up with, “She led our most recent project, which generated more revenue than any other initiative this year.”


Give Specific Feedback to Women

In a recent analysis of hundreds of performance reviews, 60% of the developmental feedback men received were linked to specific business outcomes versus 40% for women. 

While men get specific recommendations for improving their performance, women hear more generic feedback that’s harder to act on, such as “Good job” or “You need more presence in meetings.” 

This lack of open communication slows down our individual and collective progress. Without clear direction, it’s difficult to develop skills that are needed to grow. 

Equality hack: Practice mentorship in the moment

  • Actively seek out opportunities to share real-time feedback, even if bite-sized. Holding back because you’re scared you’ll upset someone doesn’t benefit anyone. 
  • Look at feedback as a gift and ask for it regularly—you’ll benefit from the advice, and ideally, other women will follow your example.


Mentor and Sponsor Women 

Mentorship and sponsorship drive success, but unfortunately women — and particularly women of color — miss out. In fact, 59% of black women have never had a formal interaction with a senior leader at their company.

Just read the latest Women in the Workplace Report, which says that, for every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, just 72 women are promoted and hired. That first missed promotion can affect women for the rest of their careers. 

Equality hack: Know your worth

  • Mentorship is not about age; it’s about action. Even if you’re just starting out in your career, the unique perspective you have brings value to the team.
  • If you’re more senior, go beyond offering advice and use your influence to advocate for others. Sponsorship is a great way for women leaders to pay it forward and help other women. 
  • Remember: A moment of mentorship can lead to a lifetime of impact.


Commit to One Action to Support #EachforEqual This Year

We all have the power to drive change and create a more equal world— what one action will you take?

To get started, here are three simple steps: 

  • Step 1: Write down one tangible action that you can take to forge a more gender-equal world. To get inspired, complete the following sentence: “My #EachforEqual One Action for this year is…”
  • Step 2: Share your #IWD2020 message on social media so others can support #EachforEqual too.
  • Step 3: Turn your commitment into everyday action.


Now that you’re conscious of the various barriers women face and how these situations play out in your workplace, you’re ready to hack equality. Once these simple steps become second nature, that’s when a culture shift happens.

A person alone has power; collectively, we have impact. 

Let’s all be #EachforEqual.


Championing equality doesn’t end on International Women’s Day. For more inspiration, make sure to check out: 

How to Champion #EachforEqual Every Day

20 Quotes That Will Inspire You to Stay on Top of Your Game 

5 Equality Hacks You Need To Know From Women At Davos