The first feminist movement dates back to 1908 in the United States, during which thousands of women who worked in garment factories marched through the streets of New York City in protest against their working conditions. Considered the lower echelons of the garment industry, unlike today, women had to deal with lower wages, harassment, and poor working conditions.
Two years later in 1910, an international conference took place in Copenhagen comprising 100 women from across 17 countries. It was here that Clara Zetkin, an avid socialist and campaigner, suggested making the day international – with a unanimous vote, ‘International Working Women’s Day’ was born.
Although the day stems from deep political and socialist roots with strikes and protests, they were often organised to raise awareness of the continued inequality in the working world.
Although Zetkin’s initial idea for International Women’s Day did not have a fixed date, it was formalised in 1917 as Russian women demanded “bread and peace” during strike. Four days into the strike, the Tsar were forced to abdicate, subsequently enabling the provisional government to grant women the right to vote – a truly revolutionary occasion and one of the most empowering and significant International Women’s Day protests to go down in history.
So why is it celebrated on the 8th March?
The strike took place on Sunday 23rd February in the Julian calendar, then used in Russia, which in the Gregorian calendar translates to 8th March.
Despite originating in the United States, the 20th century has seen International Women’s Day (‘IWD’) be observed to a higher degree in many other countries, in an attempt to demonstrate the radical need for change throughout the world.
The sole purpose of IWD is to support women and to provide a platform through which it can help foster change all over the world.
Fortunately, today’s technological advancements allows such force for change to be spread over a broad spectrum of digital platforms, enabling women from all backgrounds and cultures to come together to promote worldwide awareness a lot more easily and quickly.
Although the movement began in more of a political capacity, over the years it has taken a strategic shift and evolved towards highlighting women’s achievements, raising visibility, recognising challenges, combatting discrimination, and accelerating gender parity.
Today, IWD is signified through three symbolic colours; purple, green and white; taken from the UK’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
Colours play a fundamental role in reflecting any message you are trying to portray, after all, they can evoke emotions, feelings and even behaviours. The colours purple, green and white symbolise justice and dignity, hope and purity – albeit a controversial concept, collectively they stand strong.
Inclusion and diversity is a core principal at Sentient International and we understand and promote the importance of supporting, retaining and advancing the women within our business.
We pride ourselves on being a supportive employer, encouraging career progression and personal development amongst all of our employees, irrespective of their gender, whether or not they are married, or whether they have children – these things to not define them or their ability to do their job.
During the pandemic, we acknowledged and appreciated that many of our female employees felt under considerable pressure both at work and home, particularly with schools being closed and home education adding further strain to those effectively already working a ‘double shift’ (a full day’s work followed by several hours of work at home thereafter).
As a business, we actively ensured that all of our employees had sufficient support during what was already a difficult time without the added pressures of working from home.
We currently have a 50/50 split of male and female employees, with a number of female staff in management roles.
Our employees are from diverse backgrounds and cultures and each bring different experience, perspective and ideas to the table.
More than a century on from the first movement and despite there still being many challenges, it is easy to see how far we have come, not just as individuals, as businesses or even countries, but in a global capacity.
Individually, we can do our bit to make a positive change for women but our collective efforts are what will bring us another step closer to an equal future for all.
Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists is not enough, action is needed to level the playing field.
Individually, we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.
🙅 We can #BreakTheBias in our communities.
🙅 We can #BreakTheBias in our workplaces.
🙅 We can #BreakTheBias in our schools, colleges and universities.
Together, we can #BreakTheBias – on International Women’s Day (IWD) and beyond.