International Woman’s Day (IWD) is held every year on March 8. This global commemorative day celebrates women’s social and political achievements while calling for greater equality.
The History of International Woman’s Day
IWD’s roots date back to 1908 in New York. It was on this day that the Socialist Party of America organised a Women’s Day. They marched through the city demanding better pay, shorter working hours and voting rights.
The first National Women’s Day was celebrated in the US on February 28 1909. Then in 1913 it was decided the day would be celebrated annually throughout the USA every March 8.
It wasn’t until 1975 that the United Nations adopted the day. International Woman’s Day has since been celebrated ever since, to recognise women’s rights.
Over the decades, inroads have certainly been made in relation to women’s rights and bringing gender equality to the workforce. Figures compiled by the Pew Research Centre show that women now make up 40% of the workforce in 80 countries.
Ground has definitely been made in bridging the gender gap. However, there is still a long way to go in relation to equality in the workforce.
Figures reveal that women at some of the UK’s biggest companies are paid less than half of their male counterparts. The World Economic Forum forecasts the gender gap won’t fully close until 2186.
The race is on to bridge the gender equality gap in the workforce in the UK. Thus, government-backed targets have been set to fill 33% of board positions in FTSE companies with women by 2020.
The benefits of bringing gender diversity to the workforce
Organisations actively employing more women reap many rewards. Such benefits include giving business access to the best available talent, from lower-skilled levels to executive roles. There is also evidence that appointing women onto teams and boards can increase productivity, innovation and creativity.
Other rewards of bringing greater gender diversity to a workforce include the strengthening of team dynamics, optimising the decision-making process and creating a better working environment.
Organisations that are proactively recruiting women to cover a diverse range of roles and levels can also be seen as having a modern, progressive ethos and attitude. Consequently, such companies become sought-after to work for, thus attracting the best talent and retaining a happy, loyal workforce.
Being contented with their employer, staff are less likely to seek employment elsewhere, subsequently increasing retention and reducing staff turnover rates.
Overall, greater diversity within an organisation’s personnel creates effective teams, which ultimately leads to better business.
Inspirational female figures in tech
Testament to the integral role women play in driving innovation and business success, is the part women have played within the world of tech.
One such figure is Frances Elizabeth “Betty” Holberton, creator of the first multi-purpose computer.
During WWII a team of American women were given the job title ‘Computer’. Their task was to manually calculate ballistics trajectories for the US Army. The project led to Holberton and four other women create what was the world’s first multipurpose computer. This revolutionary machine was programmed to make multiple calculations simultaneously.
The computer invention that had come before Holberton’s creation was a solo functioning machine that was used to break Enigma.
Other truly inspirational female figures in tech are Katherine G Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. These three black women defied all odds in the twentieth century. They played an integral role in launching the first man into space to orbit Earth.
It was these ladies who calculated the data required to launch NASA’s first successful space mission. This was during a time when technology was not capable of making such complex calculations.
The achievements of women in leadership, business and industry over the decades, have been immense. It is therefore only right that on March 8, women worldwide will unite. International woman’s day recognises and celebrates the achievements of our female unsung heroes. In addition, they will highlight inequalities still affecting women in work and call for such disparities to be stamped out.
The savviest of companies are beginning to realise the multitude of benefits hiring women brings to a workforce. Although, there is a great deal of work to be done to create more gender-diverse teams.