Updated: Jan 13
How do you celebrate International Women's Day in a way that simultaneously brings you joy but also acknowledges the added value of the day? One tale says that the date gained meaning after protests in 1908 in New York when female workers had enough of the thoroughly suboptimal working conditions and took to the streets in protests. But maybe the 8th of March grew in importance later, when Europe's suffragettes united to demand what in their time was considered absolutely unimaginable and shameless – like the right to vote and run for office, just to name a few. And of course, for many, the 8th of March is associated with the Soviet-time celebration where, let's be honest, the supposed fight for gender equality was really a front for placing more of a burden on women's shoulders.
These days, some choose to ignore the day, while others pine for tulips. We invite you to spend the 8th of March celebrating women's resilience, appreciate their accomplishments, and offer support where possible.
Offer flowers and good words!
Back in the more formal days of the Victorian era, giving flowers as a gift was the only socially acceptable form of demonstrating your emotions. We too, it seems, are born into a shyness that doesn't let us show our pride in women's accomplishments. Flowers can help, but it's best if they're coupled with a vocal expression of appreciation and respect.
In Italy, women's emancipation is symbolized by the mimosa (the flower, not the cocktail), and this tradition was established specifically by women's rights activists. In case someone thought that flowers and women's rights don't go together. And do they ever! Flowers can be remotely delivered by courier, or can even be ordered through food delivery apps. But you can find even more value in the addiction by buying flowers from women-owned businesses – small shops, plant nurseries, or the charming ladies in local markets, for whom this may well be their only income.
Relieve the burden of home responsibilities!
It's no holiday if a woman is overworked and at her wits' end. Gift her a day off from home chores or childcare and care of the elderly. Make sure that in your homestead, tasks are divided equally. Based on OECD data, in Latvia, on average, women spend twice as much time on home chores than men. That can lead to burnout, career falls, and ultimately less income (not to mention a bad mood). Statistics show that women's income falls after childbirth, and doesn't usually fully recover. If you know a single mother, the 8th of March is a very good day to offer a helping hand.
Encourage a woman to apply for a raise and ask for adequate pay!
Even if we don't notice it, our subconscious values male candidates higher than their female counterparts with equal skills. Even though women more often seek out higher education, men receive higher pay. The average rate per hour for work done by women is 21.2% lower than men. In other words, for every euro a man earns, a woman gets just 79 cents. On top of that, women often shy away from demanding or negotiating their pay rate if they're offered a lower amount than they initially asked for. Among top management, only 21% of board members in the Baltics are women. Either women are significantly worse employees and leaders, or we're doing something very, very wrong.
Studies show that differences in income and responsibilities have followed us since childhood, as boys are given more pocket money than girls. Upbringing and social prejudice reduce women's self confidence. But it's in our interests to raise it. The experiences from other countries show that equal pay and women's representation in corporate and political leadership leads to growth in national well being and GDP.
Donate to organizations that fight for women's wellbeing
It might seem that a day of celebration isn't the time to think about the injustices of the world, however, we can help right them at a local level and draw others' attention to them. Unfortunately, the face of poverty in Latvia and the world is female, and the victims of domestic violence are most often women. The Marta center offers support for women and their children who find themselves in a difficult situation, the Pink Train Foundation supports women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, Skalbes offers support groups for women who have endured violence, and several projects on Ziedot.lv focus on problems that women often face.
Donate once or set up a recurring payment for a cause important to you, and turn it into a 8th of March tradition! By the way, it's been proven that donating has a positive effect on your psychological health.
Organize an informative discussion at work on gender equality!
Do you have one of those colleagues that often shares sexist images on social media and uses every opportunity to express their impatience for gender equality discussions, because equality's supposedly already been achieved? Maybe he just hasn't thought of a few aspects yet. Like, do equally qualified women and men receive the same pay? Do men in your workplace get promoted more often than women? Can women feel safe, and why are sexual jokes not appropriate for the workplace? Do we ourselves harbor subconscious stereotypes about women in the workplace?
A recent experiment demonstrated that if an identical business email is sent out by a woman and a man, the one supposedly written by a woman was more often considered by its readers to be more rude and bossy, the one supposedly written by a man was considered to be direct and precise.
Successful global businesses pay attention to ensuring diversity and equality in the workplace, and they do it precisely because if the workplace is an enjoyable environment for everyone, then they can achieve more!
Watch a movie about women's rights or an impactful female leader!
It's easier to believe in your and other women's potential when you have a real-life example in front of your eyes of what women can accomplish! Just 100 years ago it was generally considered that a woman's place is in the home, and that a woman with opinions is dangerous. On the 8th of March you can celebrate how far women have come, as well as everything that's still ahead.
You can find a variety of movies on Netflix, like “Suffragette” – on the early days of the women's rights movement, “Wadjda” – the first women-made Saudi-Arabian film on daring to be a girl and riding a bike, “Becoming” – Michelle Obama's autobiography, and many more.
On local streaming platforms, you can see director Agnès Varda's brave life story “Varda by Agnès”, “Women at War”, a film on women's fight against corporations, Greta Gerwig's incredible book-to-film version of “Little Women”, Chile's Oscar winning “A Fantastic Woman”, etc., etc. All you need to do is choose.
Buy products and services from women!
Demand dictates supply, and as consumers, we can demand that women feel materially secure, and that their business can endure the rough blow dealt by Covid-19. The global pandemic impacts women in a most direct way – industries that have endured the greatest losses are catering, hospitality, tourism, beauty, small and medium size business, and others, which most often employ more women than men. Women more rarely have the opportunity to accrue savings, and women are more often single parents, who need to provide care for their children. By supporting women-owned businesses, we can improve the scary statistics that foresee that we'll see an even greater economic gap post-pandemic.
Invite women to a discussion, conversation, or digital celebration!
Let's network remotely, but enjoy together nevertheless! In these times of social distancing it's particularly important to create support groups and maintain contact with partners, friends, and family. A glass of wine can be clinked and a cup of tea can be sipped on video calls, where women can listen, feel heard, and feel needed. In a time when remote conversations are more connected with work or education, a seemingly unproductive or wellness-geared social call is incredibly important. Try out new platforms that have been created specifically to facilitate remote communication. Organize your own remote events, and participate in courses and seminars offered by other women – as a start, take a look at what “Novatore” has to offer!