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Why SMEs need to implement equality measures beyond IWD  


Every International Women’s Day workplaces around the world present female employees with cupcakes, a tokenistic campaign and a plethora of social media posts on gender equality.

Whilst the key message behind the United Nations day of observance, which promotes awareness of gender issues and human rights is extremely important, corporate hijacking muddies the waters. 

This year’s theme ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’ tackles gender equity across all areas including the alarming $360 billion annual deficit in gender-equality measures by 2030.

Despite its importance, there is a generalised feeling of fatigue amongst women when it comes to IWD, predominantly due to the fact that corporate efforts seem disingenuous and fail to extend beyond one day.

Of course, it doesn’t help that there is widespread confusion surrounding the legitimate website for IWD, with a UK agency masquerading as the official site under the URL ‘’, employing the duplicitous theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’. 

As the Head of Marketing and Growth, in a country with only 22 percent female CEOs, a current gender pay gap of 21.7 percent and just 37 percent of all key management personnel (KMP) held by women, I’d like to see strategies implemented which impact change beyond IWD this year. 

So, how can we, as business leaders, implement strategies this year to impact true change that is authentic and impactful?

Driving sustainable change beyond International Women’s Day

The first step for businesses is to comprehensively understand the UN’s priorities for gender equality, this year’s IWD theme and how businesses can assist. As an informed workplace, you’re more likely to create strategies that have a lasting impact. 

Depending on your business size, you might want to consider assigning this role to an expert or internal committee, to ensure your strategies are equitable and achievable. 

As a start, UN Women is asking workplaces to partake in their IWD@Work experience to give your business the opportunity to learn, share and celebrate IWD together. But, what else can your business do? 

Five long-term levers for change 

Do an audit of your DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion): Check your current salary practices, internal policies and hiring methodologies to ensure there are no biases. Considering consulting an external agency for assistance to implement a 12 month strategy to achieve DEI.

Create mentorship and/or internship programs: If your workplace doesn’t have any formal mentorship programs for women to help each other professionally, you may want to consider implementing this. Women in leadership can advocate for more female talent, better parental leave and work-life balance. Internships for up-and-coming female talent is another way to help the next generation of women.

Review your existing policies: Given the disproportionate impact women face in their careers when raising or starting a family, formal systems which support family structures are vital. However, this means enabling flexibility for families to make their choice regarding how family leave, paternity and maternity, is taken and how those roles are shared. While each partnership will be different, being open to your employee’s choice, and implementing policies around this, is essential.

Year-long educational content: IWD does one thing very well, it provides an opportunity to educate and raise awareness of important topics surrounding gender equality. However, instead of this being a once-off, workplaces could implement a year-long once a month symposium for employees to partake in, to share issues facing the world and modern workplaces. The UN has 5 Key Areas requiring action and advocacy, which employees can use as starting points for topics. 

Ask your employees: At a leadership level, we can make assumptions about what’s important to employees, but here’s another thought – why don’t we ask? Issues facing modern women range from financial inequality, workplace harassment, glass ceilings and a want for greater support. These issues may even extend beyond work to relationships, fertility or postpartum issues, which as a workplace we have the power to influence and assist. The mental wellbeing of employees impacts business and society as a whole, and understanding that is an essential part of leadership.  

Whilst we can’t change gender inequality overnight, we can start with small incremental steps taken every day, not just one day. 

Resources for businesses this IWD

UN Women Australia – IWD@Work 

UN Women – International Women’s Day official website 

Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) 

Chief Executive Women (CEW): Offers resources, toolkits, and events specifically tailored to leadership and management.

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