My initial approach when thinking about this day was to share some thoughts about how great the women at White Marble are, and how hard they have worked to get where they are within this male-led industry. However, upon asking this question to the team, their passion and enthusiasm in expressing their opinions of the day – and the broader issues it concerns – took me down a different route. Hearing everyone’s thoughts, experiences and opinions created a wider lens surrounding International Women’s Day.
The thought-provoking sentiments of various team members made me think of International Women’s Day as so much more than a singular day, on which women can be celebrated through some skeletal LinkedIn graphic. As such, I wanted to explore some of the thoughts the White Marble team shared with me and encourage others to start conversations within their own teams on the topic.
The unanimous response from the team was that this should not be a ‘day’ – it calls for so much more. No single response mentioned how the day makes them feel. Comments instead focused on years of support from their industry peers, the creative and trusting space that has been created for them by like-minded people, how they are inspired by the people they work around and how they work to build them up in return. One member of the team described it as a sisterhood that embraces and celebrates diversity; an unconditional alliance that empowers and inspires others.
However, some commenters did foreground the notion that we are living in relative luxury, and that we must spread our wings internationally to ensure greater equity for all. We may take this day to spend a little longer appreciating women around us or challenging our own perceptions, but this should continue throughout the year. Some women experience no relief from the stark injustices they face each day. We are the lucky ones, able to treat a day on which we think more about equity as a luxury, as opposed to an inescapable necessity.
In essence, I have found the exploration of IWD has shown there should be no single day to strive for better and symbolizes something greater than all of us; it certainly started as a movement before most if not all of us and unfortunately, reports suggest that it may take as long as 257 years for the global gender pay gap to close. This fight is one not for ourselves but for future generations, and a fight that none of us will ever see the end of.
Now, while all of these things are lovely sentiments, how can businesses approach International Women’s Day? I think the answer to that is not a straightforward one. Any business can share a well-timed LinkedIn post on International Women's Day, but the messaging becomes obsolete if your organisation is not living the values it promotes. This in turn can have negative implications for both the perceived authenticity and internal culture of the business. If there are not constant conversations within an organisation about what they can be doing to combat gender inequality, then a cheesy post on social simply won’t cut it. In fact, it is likely to demotivate people and discredit the company.
Gender equity is a beacon of hope for many and while we are making leaps and bounds in the right direction, there is so much further to go. It is all well and good to think that we are doing a good job but, just as International Women’s Day should encompass more than a day, one company’s success is not determined by the wider inequality that is still rife throughout so many industries and countries, ours included.
To round this up, I would say that the key learning, and the best way to honour International Women’s Day is to talk. Ask people difficult questions. Use the time you would have spent planning your social post to discuss what this truly means to people. The only way we progress and move ahead is to immerse ourselves in the perspectives of others, carrying them forward in our lives and actions.