What is International Women’s Day’s place in the modern workplace?

By March 3, 2024Trending

This March 8th marks 113 years since the first celebration of International Women’s Day, initially founded as rallies that campaigned for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, hold public office, and to end discrimination. But it wasn’t until 1977 that it was recognised by the UN.

Though there have been significant equality gains in the intervening years, modern workplaces still grapple with gender disparities, and there are many challenges that need attention. 

Thankfully, tokenistic International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations offered by many companies are becoming a thing of the past. Pink cupcakes and prosecco are out, and more meaningful engagement is in. 

It’s no longer enough to celebrate the achievements of particular women. Each IWD is an opportunity to recognise the existing challenges faced by all women – but especially marginalised groups of women – and commit to fully addressing them. 

Summits and seminars that open conversations and push the agenda forward are now more the norm. And it’s no longer an echo chamber either; men are invited too.

For the purpose of this piece, we’re taking a snapshot of the core labour markets where Amply’s publishing network is currently active, to examine why we still need IWD, and how far we have to go.

U.S. & Canada 

Every year since 2014, McKinsey releases its Women in the Workplace report, in partnership with LeanIn.Org.  

This is the largest study of women in corporate America and Canada, as it surveys more than 27,000 employees and 270 senior HR leaders who share insights on policies and practices. 

Importantly, the report takes into account intersectional biases and barriers faced by Asian, Black, Latina and LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities. 

In its most recent iteration, it stresses that women are more ambitious than ever, and that workplace flexibility is fuelling it. This is contrary to trends like “quiet quitting” and “lazy girl jobs”, which have dominated so much of the workplace discourse since the pandemic. 

It reports that roughly 80% of women want to be promoted to the next level, compared with 70% in 2019. Black women are even more ambitious, with 88% keen to be promoted. 

The report credits hybrid and remote working models for enabling women to prioritise their personal lives, at no cost to their professional ambitions. 

However, a considerable gender pay gap still exists. On average, women in the U.S. working full-time, year-round are paid 16% less than what men are paid. For white, non-Hispanic women this rises to 20%, while Black women earn 4.2% less, Asian women 19.2% less and Hispanic women earn 13.3% less. 


The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s most recent report highlights that women make up just 37.8% of boards in the UK, while women spent 12.65% of their time on unpaid domestic and care work, compared with 6.97% of time for men.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports on the gender pay gap in the UK

The latest figures, from 2023, show a 7.7% pay gap among full-time employees and a 14.3% gap for all employees, an improvement on the UN reported global pay gap of around 20%.

Interestingly, Government Equalities Office analysis from 2019 notes that the pay gap widens notably for over-40s, indicative of shifts to part-time work and women leaving the paid labour market entirely to do unpaid care work. 

A number of new employment laws were introduced in 2023 to encourage workplace participation for all, including: Flexible Working Act, Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family leave) Act, Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act and Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act, Carer’s Leave Act, and Worker Protection Act. 

Many of these will influence the lives of women, but flexible working still remains at the behest of employers, while the cost of childcare continues to exclude many women from paid work outside the home.

Looking specifically at women in tech, although the number of women working in the industry has slowly been growing over the last decade; currently just 22% of workers are women. 

And though tech hiring is up overall, the number of women working in the UK sector actually declined last year, according to figures from the ONS, despite the market steadying after a peak of layoffs. 


When it comes to workplace participation, 42% of women in the EU are in paid full-time employment, compared to 57% of men, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality. 

Men have greater flexibility in the workplace. Some 37% of men say they have the ability to take one or two hours off to take care of personal or family matters, versus 29% of women. 

This is despite stats from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that show how women also carry the lion’s share of unpaid labour in the form of domestic and caregiving work. Between unpaid labour and paid work, women work more.

In addition, within the European Union, women continue to earn less than men. The average pay gap stands at 13% currently


In Ireland, the participation of women in the labour force is still below the international average. 

Recent figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) put the rate of female participation at 69.8%, higher than the EU average but below the 75% average put forward by the OECD, and the national male participation rate of 78.3%. 

Pay gap data is patchy at best, but required reporting on the gender pay gap is expanding. From 2024, employers with more than 150 employees must prepare and produce gender pay gap reports, and from 2025 employers with more than 50 employees will be required to file reports.

The current data contains stats from just 500 organisations, and the 2023 reported figure was an overall average mean of 11.2%, a drop from 12.3% in the previous year. 

However, the legal sector is an exception, where the pay gap actually increased from 53.5% in 2022 to 54.7% in 2023.

Slow progress is being made

Non-inclusive behaviours remain rampant in the workplace, though they are on the decline. 

According to Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2023: A Global Outlook, 44% of respondents reported experiencing harassment and/or microaggressions in the workplace over the past year. 

This is a significant decrease from 59% in 2022, though it still means almost half of women are affected.

Thankfully, 44% of women who experienced microaggressions reported them to their employer, up from 23% in 2022, but sadly, there has been a decline in reporting harassment at 59% in 2023, down from 66% in 2022. 

The top reason women gave for the non-reporting of microaggressions and harassment is that they didn’t feel it was serious enough to report. 

The figures worsen when it comes to women in under-represented groups, with 54% experiencing microaggressions, compared to 39% of the overall sample, and 13% reported harassment, versus 9% of the overall sample. Nearly half of these respondents say they would not recommend their employer to others. 

In the UK, ‘Unobserved Factors’, which includes harassment and discrimination, is credited with driving 31% of the gender pay gap

Overall, women from all backgrounds remained underrepresented in senior roles. 

In the U.S. and Canada, things are improving slowly. Since 2015, the number of women in the C-suite has increased from 17% to 28%, while the number of women in Senior VP and VP roles has marginally increased 4% every five years.  

Clearly, there’s a lot more work to do. Progress is slow for all women, but especially for women of colour, and companies need to address this inequity head-on.  

What employees can do

Prioritise flexible working in your job hunt. Companies that prioritise flexible policies demonstrate a commitment to creating inclusive workplaces for both women and men. 

Men who have flexible working have the opportunity to take on great household and childcare responsibilities.

As part of your IWD discussions, you can recommend your company tracks gender and race in career development programmes, performance reviews and employee sentiment surveys. Through this data, patterns will emerge that can be used for actionable improvements. 

You may also suggest the managers take on KPIs around career development, DE&I, and employee well-being to motivate consistent action, and that the company expands its code of conduct to include microaggressions and harassment. A zero tolerance for these behaviours needs to come from leadership.  

Lastly, a concrete company plan that shows investment in the advancement of women of colour is essential. Tailored career development plans and programmes for sponsors and mentors can all make a big difference. While it’s not up to you to implement these, you can put pressure on HR to prioritise changes that will improve the experience of women for years to come.   

By fostering inclusive cultures, challenging stereotypes, and addressing systemic issues, we can cumalatively pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for women in the workforce. 

Find out more

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Author Amanda Kavanagh

More posts by Amanda Kavanagh

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