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International Women's Day: Everything you need to know
Small Business and Self-Employed

International Women's Day: Everything you need to know

Women in business remain underrepresented, making up only 22.4% of entrepreneurs in the US. That said, in other parts of the world, such as Latin America and the Caribbean, females constitute 50% of all entrepreneurs. Still, there is ground to be made up.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is one way that global businesses are attempting to improve the current situation and tackle everyday sexism in the workplace. A recent McKinsey study suggested that we are going through the “Great Breakup”. 

For every 100 men promoted to managerial positions, companies only promote 87 women. As a result, more women than ever are leaving their jobs in search of something better. In the fight for equality, many women are choosing to start their own small businesses, if not aim for roles in organizations with a better diversity and inclusion (D&I) record.

IWD is one-way businesses can strive for equality, but it goes beyond lip service and honoring the day. Here is what you can do this IWD to show your support to women in business

The history of International Women’s Day

IWD has a long history, beginning in the early 1900s. In large cities like New York, women sought better treatment and fairer pay for the long hours they were working. In 1908, the women reached breaking point and marched through New York City to demand voting rights and better pay.

The first National Woman’s Day (NWD) occurred in 1908, observed on February 28. Celebrations occurred on the last Sunday of February every year until 1913. 

Across the pond, Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed the notion of an International Women’s Day. A conference of over 100 women from 17 countries approved the notion unanimously, and IWD was born.

Women have celebrated IWD globally ever since, but the UN did not provide backing until 1975. Sadly, the motivation to celebrate died down a little by the early 2000s, with feminism no longer a popular topic. Nevertheless, there were still battles to be won.

In 2011, on the centenary of IWD, President Barack Obama proclaimed March to be Women’s History Month. Meanwhile, activist Annie Lennox led a march in the United Kingdom to raise awareness for a women’s charity called Women for Women International. All of a sudden, IWD was revitalized.

Now, IWD is a hot topic again, but it needs to be more than just a buzzword. Organizations have a responsibility to fight for gender parity and support their female members, and simply saying “happy international women’s day!” is not enough. Instead, organizations (whether female-led or otherwise) can make tangible efforts to champion women in business.

How International Women’s Day helps women in business

There is a risk that IWD and other similar holidays are ways for brands to virtue signal, making a statement to show they care without actioning real change. However, it is still a chance to spread the word and draw attention to the everlasting gender pay gap. While some companies may virtue signal, there are those that are fighting the good fight. With this guide, your small business can contribute.

This is, of course, only a foundation to build from. At the very least, companies and individuals sharing newly published statistics across social media highlight genuine issues. From the basic gender pay gap to problems with intersectionality (for every $1 earned by American men, white American women earn 79 cents, but Black women earn just 62 cents and Latina women earn 54 cents), infographics and proclamations of support let everyone know there is still a war to wage.

The more people know about and celebrate IWD, the more we can break the bias and ensure equality for women in the workplace.

Female business owners breaking the bias

There are plenty of female-owned businesses already dominating the game. The trouble is that women remain underrepresented in top positions and overrepresented in entry-level roles; this disparity is even greater for women of color. 

Still, it’s inspiring to see women breaking the glass ceiling. In the modern world, it’s common for influencers with a huge social media following to turn to business, and many female influencers have done so with remarkable success.

Grace Beverley, a 25-year-old fitness influencer from the UK, started a sustainable activewear brand from her bedroom. TALA is now a multi-million-pound business that provides women with more sustainable alternatives to affordable activewear. It’s also a diverse organization that champions women of all shapes and sizes.

Similarly, Swedish influencer Matilda Djerf started a luxury clothing brand in 2019. According to Djerf, she had no business plan when she started the company. However, the business is now worth millions. 

Eniola Oshodi is another woman pioneering a new way in business. As a Nurse Practitioner, she noticed that medical professionals could not accurately express themselves in unflattering scrubs. Her Black-owned, female-led business Dope Scrubs seeks to change this with stylish, unique scrubs that suit all tastes. Oshodi also aspires to increase the visibility of underrepresented ethnic groups in the healthcare sector.

Oshodi has taken Dope Scrubs from strength to strength, even opening a physical location and hosting mentorship events for individuals from underrepresented backgrounds.

Female-led businesses and start-ups often struggle to get started due to a lack of funding and resources, which can make it difficult to grow a business from the ground up like this. Finding ways to get initial funding and leveraging technology to run and manage businesses, can provide a path for women just getting started with their companies to find a foothold in the industry.

Take a look at the QuickBooks Breaking the Bias interviews to learn more.

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How can business owners support International Women’s Day?

There are many ways a business can celebrate IWD and support women in business. Simple ideas include decorating the office; purple, green, and white are the official colors of IWD. You can also encourage employees to dress in these colors. 

Other budget options include creating and sharing images on social media, including infographics, posters, or images of the women in your company. Make sure you give female members of your business a chance to speak up, share their stories, and talk about their experiences.

Critically, IWD should provide a space for change and improvement. Alongside thanking women in your organization and showing your appreciation, you should provide a space for constructive criticism and feedback.

Consider hosting an event with key speakers in the field, or even watching online TED Talks and tuning into virtual conferences that can expand your knowledge on the issues surrounding women’s rights.

The opportunities for celebrating IWD are endless. Whatever path you go down, make sure you uplift the voices of women in business and endeavor to make a real difference.


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