Equality | What does International Women's Day mean for HR?

What does International Women's Day mean for HR?

2018 was a big year for shaming employers with large gender disparity.

It was a year that saw the BBC come under fire for failing to recognise prominent equal pay issues, despite female staff continuing to be paid far less in comparison with male colleagues, The Guardian reported. And 2019 research has confirmed that this gender disparity still stands firm.

How did International Women’s Day start?

International Women’s Day (IWD) was initiated by a gathering in 1911 and has been celebrated annually on 8 March. This global day is sought to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements for women. And with gender parity high up on the agenda for many employers, this day also calls for further action to improve opportunities for women at work.

Internationalwomensday.com cites renowned Journalist and feminist Gloria Steinem, who said: "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

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And with a steep incline in the number of UK women in employment, IWD should be a top priority for HR. So, what are some departments doing?

Kay Harriman, HR Director at Hilton, told HR Grapevine that she views International Women’s Day as an opportunity for employers to recognise hard work and achievement and use this celebration as a leverage point to continue delivering an outstanding daily experience for their guests. “But most importantly, it is a great opportunity to inspire our female talent pipeline, showcasing the huge range of career paths open to them, and encouraging them to strive to achieve their ambitions,” Harriman added.

But what are Hilton actually doing to support International Women’s Day?

The global hotel brand is offering a range of activities throughout March to support the movement. And the extent of their involvement starts with channelling their social media presence.

Harriman said: “Every day this month, we’re showcasing a different female team member on our global careers Instagram page - @HiltonCareers. The aim is to inspire present and prospective team members and to demonstrate the opportunities available, by highlighting a range of inspiring examples of women at all different stages of their career, all of whom have bright futures ahead of them.”

Additionally, in line with International Women’s Day, the hotel chain is hosting its biggest ever Women@Hilton event later in the month, which has been organised in partnership with Everywoman. Balance for Better is the core theme for the event – which highlights the importance of inclusivity, regardless of level, age and gender - advocating the importance of the diversity agenda going forwards.

Why should HR care about International Women’s Day?

Harriman explained that International Women’s Day is an important consideration for employers, not only in terms of employee engagement but in terms of business success too. And with HR being the core people function for businesses, it is important that they put the people first and support movements that have personal importance to them.

She added: “As a global hospitality company serving guests in 113 countries and territories, we firmly believe diversity is fundamental to our success, and are committed to providing all team members with the support they need to achieve their career ambitions.

“This day is a great milestone, and a good opportunity to reflect on progress, discuss key challenges and highlight opportunities to make further improvements."

"Throughout the rest of the year, it’s critical that we keep those insights front-of-mind and to continue the dialogue to maintain momentum.”

The women’s labour force participation

Xander van Baarsen from Ekoapp explained: “Today's global women’s labour force participation rate is close to 49%, while for men it’s 75%. Women in tech are covering 25% of IT jobs and though Katie Wan, our Head of People, ensures that Eko is 14% ahead of this average, we're always striving for even better gender-balance.”

Van Baarsen told HR Grapevine that International Women’s Day should be used to “honour the amazing women who make a difference, break glass-ceilings, and lead the way to an equal workplace. Together, we can pave the way for the girls of today to achieve more as the women of tomorrow.”

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