Written by Isabel Beresford-Cole

20 year-old, female, ethnically diverse


International Women’s Day (IWD) takes place on the 8th of March and is a yearly celebration of women’s achievements, aiming to promote gender equality and end discrimination.


The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is ‘Inspire Inclusion’, which they claim  “encourages everyone to recognise the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalised communities.”


It is great to see that International Women’s Day is recognising different kinds of women’s experiences, but I want to assess how far they are truly being “inclusive”.

Exploring the Goals of International Women’s Day


Looking at the IWD website, I saw that a big part of the #InspireInclusion hashtag is about getting more diverse people into leadership roles. I noticed this in the main events International Women’s Day was organising, such as conferences and forums celebrating and highlighting women in business, economics and entrepreneurship.


Initiatives like these are incredibly beneficial for young women, like myself, who are just entering the workforce. Witnessing strong, powerful women in leadership roles is inspiring and helps me envision myself in similar positions. Yet, I can’t help but question: Is this representation inclusive for everyone?


I worry that International Women’s Day focuses too much on ‘glass ceiling feminism’. A concept by Julie Bindel, which believes that helping women in top positions will naturally help women at all levels of society.


But for women fighting for basic human rights and their freedom, glass ceiling feminism is not relevant to them.


The IWD website lists six missions: promoting women at work, in creative fields, empowerment, technology, sports, and health. While these goals focus on workplace equality, they reflect Western ideas of women’s liberation.


However, for a campaign about ‘Inspiring Inclusion’, I’d expect these missions to go further, advocating for women’s rights worldwide and amplifying marginalised voices.


Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people. 71% of all human trafficking involves women and girls – mainly for sexual exploitation. Globally, women still have only three quarters of the legal rights afforded to men.


Missions focused on promoting women’s educational rights, combating trafficking and gender violence, and advocating for women’s rights would more effectively encompass non-Western women in International Women’s Day initiatives.


We must not forget: to be able to ‘celebrate’ International Women’s Day is a privilege. While we applaud trailblazers in the sports or entertainment industry, and companies allocate money and resources for refreshments for IWD conferences, it’s crucial to acknowledge that 33,000 girls will become child brides today. This underscores the stark disparity in experiences and realities.


Is One Day Enough?


This leads me to another concern: Is one day enough? Why isn’t women’s liberation a priority for companies every day of the year?


I truly believe International Women’s Day is a lovely initiative with the best intentions. It sparks much needed conversations every year and promotes the achievements of brilliant individuals. But does it go far enough to enact any tangible change?


There is an IWD campaign encouraging people to take selfies with a hand heart gesture with the hashtag #InspireInclusion. While thousands might participate in this social media trend, it raises questions about the actual impact on addressing women’s disadvantages.


While taking selfies can raise awareness, it’s crucial to ensure that such actions translate into tangible efforts to address gender inequality. It’s essential to consider what percentage of participants are actively taking steps to create meaningful change for women, beyond just sharing a photo online.


In 2022, a mere 0.2% of global aid and development funds were allocated to combat gender-based violence. In today’s turbulent political landscape, where women in conflict zones face heightened risks, it’s imperative to invest more in supporting them. Shockingly, 1 in 5 women refugees endure sexual violence, making them vulnerable to abduction, trafficking, and forced marriage. We cannot afford to ignore their plight any longer.


Women’s liberation should not be reduced to 24 hours of performative virtue signalling. It would be great to see companies move beyond PR gimmicks and commercialised campaigns to initiate long-term action plans to tackle gender inequality.


On March 9th, things will go back to ‘normal’. But this ‘normal’ is a world where women are still oppressed because of their race and gender. We can’t fix everything overnight, but we can definitely do more all year to fight gender inequality.


Looking back at last year’s International Women’s Day campaign, we have to ask: what really changed for women? Since 2023, the gender pay gap has actually increased, and at the current rate of progress, it would take 131 years to close it.


Looking beyond the UK, women across the globe are still dealing with issues like gender-based violence and ongoing struggles for reproductive, political, and human rights. There’s still a long way to go before we see significant improvements for women everywhere.


Moving Forward: Reimagining International Women’s Day’s Impact


So, is International Women’s Day delivering on its promises to ‘Inspire Inclusion’?


I commend efforts to draw attention to diverse, ‘intersectional’ feminism, but I believe that this must go further.


‘Intersectionality’ has become a buzz word in recent years, looking at the ways in which gender can intersect with other axes of oppression such as race, class and sexuality. It’s imperative that we move beyond buzzwords- we need to take action and make real changes to fight for equality.


We need to go beyond just focusing on the gender pay gap or lack of representation in leadership because these aren’t the same issues for all women everywhere.


This is why some women reject feminism—it tries to put everyone in the same box, using White, middle-class feminists as the standard, despite the diverse range of experiences that women have. We can’t have a celebration day that treats all women the same without recognising these differences.


By listening to women from all over the world, standing together, and making real and meaningful changes, we can truly ‘Inspire Inclusion’.


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