How to Plan an Awesome International Women's Day Event

All images courtesy of the brilliant instagram mind of Lisa MacTavish - our first guest author!


It’s the most wonderful (work)day of the year! It’s nearly International Women’s Day (IWD), a day celebrated around the world on March 8th. If you are a woman, or if you know someone who is a woman, you may want to celebrate this day. Further, if you are a woman working in a male-dominated industry like me, you may feel that it is really important to recognize this day. So how can you do that? I’ve put together a few ideas to celebrate IWD based on events that I’ve run in the past. Hopefully, these will inspire you to organize an IWD event in your own workplace!

According to their website: “International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

To me, IWD is a good excuse to spark conversation about gender equality and the issues that women in engineering continue to face. Since I work at an engineering consulting firm, it’s the perfect place to have these kinds of discussions. IWD actually is one of the best work days of the year, because it’s a day about female empowerment. When else do you get to openly discuss and educate colleagues on women’s issues in the workplace, get recognized for your achievements (you navigated the leaky pipeline? Congrats!), and potentially do so over a free lunch?? IWD can be a wonderful day if you choose to make it so.

A little about me: I am a huge fan of what Elaine and Olivia are doing with enggirlproblems. I relate to their posts about feeling stressed and overwhelmed at work sometimes, while at other times having a blast and feeling very powerful. I’m a Structural Engineer at a consulting firm and have had a handful of enggirlproblems over the years. Thankfully I have a fairly inclusive work environment, an amazing enggirl support group, and a corporate culture that’s working to improve our gender diversity and inclusion.

The past couple years have seen my previously mentioned enggirls (shout out to Sam and Josi!) and I run some events around IWD to spark positive change in our work environment. These have been very successful. Although there was work involved in the planning and preparation of the activities/events, overall I found them quite easy to run. At my engineering office, it was a matter of:

  • Coming up with a good idea

  • Making a plan

  • Asking for permission (and some minor funding) to run the event

The last part was surprisingly the easiest. The lack of gender diversity in engineering is so obvious at most workplaces that any manager has probably wondered how they might improve the numbers. If you walk into your supervisor or engineering lead’s office with a thoughtfully planned idea that will promote a good cause, it’s likely that they will give you the go-ahead.

This brings me to the point of this article. I believe that every engineering office should recognize IWD in some way. We have to be the ones to initiate change and you can start by doing so in your immediate workplace. Anything that you can manage is great - from making an announcement at your morning meeting to renting out a movie theatre for a private showing of a feminist movie (thank you to my head office for that event). I recently posted an Instagram story about relatively easy things that anyone could organize for IWD. In case you aren’t one of my 12 dedicated followers, here are my ideas (with original Instagram story images) for planning an awesome IWD event. I hope they inspire you enggirls to recognize IWD any way you can.

1. Lunch and Learn with Gender Diversity TED Talk

 
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Convince your manager to order lunch, then get everyone together to watch a video (for example, a TED Talk) about the importance of diversity in the workplace, unconscious bias, or anything relevant to IWD. This option is nice because you don’t have to do the talking; you can get a Harvard graduate in Women’s Studies to do that! I suggest watching a video and leaving time for discussion afterward. Have a few questions prepared to get the discussion going. When I did this, the resulting conversation was so good that it carried on well past the lunch hour.

2. Lunch and Learn with a Guest Speaker

 
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Again, order lunch, then arrange a guest speaker to give a presentation to your group. This could be anyone: an experienced female colleague talking about her experiences getting to where she is, or someone that you know outside of your workplace that would have something interesting to share. If it’s difficult to convince someone to speak due to the daunting idea of preparing a 20-minute presentation last minute, you can simply organize a Question and Answer period. Get everyone attending to have a question or two to ask the guest speaker, and have a few questions prepared to spark discussion. Then sit back, enjoy some food, and let the conversation flow!

3. Get creative! Any idea is a good idea.

 
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This year in my office, we are doing a “featured women” series to showcase 10 influential/inspirational women in the weeks leading up to IWD. On Friday, we will have a board set up with photos of all the inspirational women and room for people to put up pictures of themselves or their children as “future inspirations”.

Last year, we organized an “inclusive language” game encourage people to think twice about using gendered language in the workplace. For example, referring to the general undetermined engineer/contractor/whoever as “HE”, using the term “manhours”, or saying “go ask one of the Civil guys”. There were chocolate prizes involved and it was a great success! (send me a message if you want more info on this one)

The point is, anything that you can think of that celebrates women or addresses gender issues in some way is going to be a good thing. Get creative, ask for help and get your manager(s) on board!

4. Check out the IWD website

 
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If you need ideas, the IWD website and social channels are great resources. They have LOTS of good ideas. They can help you with anything from providing marketing/awareness material to running an entire workshop on subconscious biases.

IWD is coming up soon (Friday!), but some of these ideas can definitely be thrown together quickly and set up by then. Think about what you want to accomplish, get creative, and be confident with the idea you have! IWD has a good message that is worth spreading. I wish you all luck in your IWD endeavours. You deserve to be celebrated!

Happy planning!

Lisa


If you want to know more about the events I’ve run, get in touch with enggirlproblems and they’ll send your questions to me so we can chat! If you want to check out the plethora of ideas, resources and marketing material available from International Women’s Day, check out their website: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

Big thank you to Lisa for being our first guest author! If you want to read more about Lisa, check our her bio here.