Next Monday marks the first day of March, and with it comes the start of Women’s History Month. What began as a local ‘Women’s History Week’ in 1978 in Santa Rosa California has now been a federally-recognized, dedicated month for more than three decades. In contrast to years past however, women’s participation in the labor force is currently experiencing a significant decline. In January, it hit its lowest level in 33 years due to the layered impacts of the pandemic. This makes celebrating Women’s History Month at work in 2021 more important than ever.
Simultaneously, as organizations work to step up their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, championing women represents a crucial piece of the puzzle. While social distancing rules continue to present challenges to those trying to organize employee initiatives, there are still many opportunities to acknowledge the crucial role that women play in your company and rally around the cause of advancing women’s issues worldwide. Check out this list of ideas for celebrating women’s history month at work in 2021, and every year.
Why it’s important to celebrate women in the workplace
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.2 million fewer women in the workforce in October 2020 than at the same time just one year prior; 865,000 left in September alone. Moreover, women accounted for 100% of job losses in December. While 156,000 women lost their jobs in the last month of the year, men actually gained 16,000. With women shouldering the overwhelming brunt of the additional housework and childcare brought on by the pandemic, experts suggest that this crisis could erase a full generation’s worth of progress on gender equity.
Given the fact that women had not nearly achieved parity to begin with, this consequence of COVID-19 would simply add insult to injury. Women still earn just $0.81 for every $1.00 a man earns, and that disparity is exacerbated further by race. This isn’t just a problem for women though; it’s a drag on the economy overall. McKinsey & Company estimates that if gender parity were to be achieved by 2025, the U.S. economy would grow by $4.3 trillion. The exodus of women from the workforce hurts everyone. Accordingly, it’s crucial that workplaces champion women early and often. One easy way to do so is to celebrate Women’s History Month at work in 2021 in a highly visible way that drives real impact.
Ideas for celebrating Women’s History Month at work in 2021
In an ideal world, every company would celebrate every employee every day, regardless of gender, race, age, role, title, department, etc. In reality, we know that doesn’t happen simply by looking at the data in the paragraph above. While getting to this point will require deep and sustained work on issues of bias, sexism, racism, classism, etc. over the long-term, it can begin with relatively simple efforts. Celebrating the achievements of individuals from underrepresented communities through events such as Black History Month this month, or Women’s History Month starting next week, can help companies begin taking strides towards their ultimate inclusion and belonging goals. Consider implementing one or more of these ideas to acknowledge Women’s History Month within your workforce:
- Profile underappreciated women in your organization. While women in positions of power in your organization may have a high degree of name recognition amongst your staff, there are droves of others making a substantive difference to the company every day who deserve similar attention. Select a handful of women across different departments and interview them, then publish the profiles through your internal and external communications channels. Showing appreciation for more female staff and leaders beyond those who are typically recognized will help to build a more welcoming and supportive environment for all women.
- Hold a panel discussion with women leaders. Highlighting female employees who have successfully climbed the career ladder can provide others with role models and crucial lessons around how to advance within the organization. Make sure that in addition to sharing advice for how to follow in their footsteps, you also make space for the panelists to describe the challenges they’ve come up against, so other women understand that they’re not alone in what they’re facing. Of course, gauge and confirm interest in participating rather than expecting or requesting that people join the panel. Just as with our recommendations for Black History Month, it is not these women’s job to speak for everyone or do more work than they already do.
- Offer a training on gender equality. As we discussed earlier in this post, gender inequality is still a very real issue, with very real consequences. There are a number of training providers that focus on working to combat gender bias and build more inclusive workplaces, so consider it an investment in your company’s future and hire one to engage your workforce next month. If done right, your people and your bottom line will thank you.
- Build a strategy to advance women in your workplace. There are many ways to celebrate Women’s History Month, but one of the most valuable steps you can take is to assemble a committee to identify areas for improvement around gender equity, and establish a plan to address them. This could include setting goals around how and when you’ll reach gender pay equity, expanding your benefits packages to better support working mothers, evaluating and remedying any disparities in promotion rate, etc. Building a strategy for the long-term will make a much bigger difference than simply making superficial efforts for a month.
- Partner with a women-focused nonprofit to drive change. Another more significant way you can recognize Women’s History Month is by supporting women and girls with your company’s dollars and time. Find a nonprofit that aligns with your company’s mission and lay out a plan to partner and assist them. There are myriad issues impacting women and girls both worldwide and right here in the U.S., as well as many ways to engage with them, so figure out what’s right for your company and get started on making it a reality.
Celebrating Women’s History Month at work in 2021 is crucial as women continue to suffer disproportionate effects from the pandemic. Determine ways to better support female employees both during March and all year-round, and watch as your employer brand and bottom line enjoy the benefits of your efforts. Building more robust employee support networks through initiatives like employee resource groups for women and/or parents can go a long way towards improving life for female employees. If you could use some help in identifying what programming would be the best fit for your organization, come visit us at workrowd.com or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org; we’d be happy to connect and see how we can best support.