Leslie Pendergrast: How do you use International Women’s Day to increase recognition of female employees?

Leslie Pendergrast

International Women’s Day (8 March 2023) celebrations in the workplace are not just about recognising the achievements and remarkable effort that women employees put into their daily work, they are also about addressing and eliminating gender bias within the work environment. The goal of the day is essentially empowering and supporting women employees to do better in their job roles, by understanding and tackling the unique issues and challenges they face in their professional lives.

Rather than just claiming that they support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), businesses need to ensure they provide equal opportunities to women. As part of the celebrations, employers should now look into reinforcing their efforts to create a more diverse, fair, and inclusive workplace that fosters a more positive, tolerant, and trustworthy work environment for all employees. This includes hosting seminars and workshops that provide opportunities for advancement to women with varying skills, personalities, and perspectives. In the long run, this can enable businesses to better position themselves to build high performing teams where women feel psychologically safe, professionally seen, and do their best work.

Employers should also take this opportunity to reinforce those DEI initiatives that are specifically tailored to support women throughout the year, and not just on International Women’s Day. Highlighting or introducing new engagement programmes that are exclusively devoted to enhancing their working experience can enable women employees to feel genuinely valued and respected in their workplace.

For example, at Outreach, we launched our own employee engagement program, Rise, to help our female sellers gain the necessary tools, access, and experiences to rise up through the ranks of the sales organisation. This year, we plan to expand this to emerging women leaders beyond the sales function.

Overall, if employers are looking to commemorate the day, rather than promoting for marketing purposes and topicality, it’s important to ensure that they are designing and pushing initiatives that are impactful in creating change and raising awareness around the cause.

Leslie Pendergrast is chief people officer at Outreach