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Home | Got a Minute | Diversity and inclusion | No. 50 – Is IWD just a scam to make companies feel good about themselves?

No. 50 – Is IWD just a scam to make companies feel good about themselves?

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9 March 2022

I’m a female manager working for a well-known corporate brand. Every year my company makes a huge deal about International Women’s Day (IWD). We get cupcakes, breakfasts with keynote speakers and gift bags. All very nice for about two hours. We then go back to work in a company where we have virtually no women in leadership positions, a clear gender pay gap and lots of talk of flexibility but no actual change. Is IWD just a scam to make companies feel good about themselves?

Sadly, I think for many companies your observation is spot on. What’s disappointing is that IWD actually began with the right intentions and out of a time when women were fighting for equal rights like women’s suffrage. Since then, the United Nations declared IWD to be an official day of observance and their theme for IWD is 2022 is “Changing Climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. But that is not the theme you will find plastered around the walls of your company breakfast.

You can quickly understand the commercialisation of IWD by doing a quick Google search. The top hit for IWD is a private company website that declares the theme for 2022 to be “Break The Bias”. Using this theme, event organisers are encouraged to “strike the Break the Bias pose” and to download selfie cards, posters and organise wristbands. Sadly the real work remains yet to be done. All issues around gender equality are important but as long as we focus on the imagery, sustainable change towards gender equality will remain wanted.

Every year I’m asked to speak for no charge at an International Women’s Day (IWD) event. I’m an expert in my field and charge clients for my time, including when I’m asked to speak or facilitate workshops. For some reason, companies expect that when it comes to IWD, we should do it free. Isn’t IWD designed to improve gender equality for women like me and not ask us to work unpaid?

Like you, I’ve been asked to speak free at IWD events and I know many other women who have the same challenge. Often I will agree if it’s for a charitable organisation such as UN Women. The challenge I have is when it is a corporate event and, as you describe, for some reason, everyone else deserves their salary that day but you.

One of Australia’s multibillion-dollar organisations once asked me to speak at an IWD event where they were charging people to attend, but asked that I speak free. They suggested that by me agreeing to work free, I was allowing them to run these kinds of events. That guilt trip really annoyed me since if this company wanted to hold events, they certainly had the deep pockets to do so. I declined and suggested that asking anyone to work free at a ticketed corporate event, let alone asking a woman to work free on this day, seemed a long way from the spirit of IWD.

I’m 64-year-old woman and need to keep working until the pension age of 67, as many people do. I have part-time employment that no longer fits my family and health requirements since it is evening and weekend work but my employer is not willing to change this. Is there a dedicated employment agency specialising in jobs for over 60s? I really don’t wish to retrain for such a short working timeframe. I feel there is very little support for my age group and feel quite dejected. What advice can you give?

It is such a shame your employer can’t find a way to use your experience differently for the last three years of your career. It seems so short-sighted. I turned to some online networks to try to understand what speciality recruitment agencies there are for people of your age. It turns out there are a few and from the number of people who responded, there also seems to be a lot of demand. There are a few job boards you might like to investigate including or Good luck!

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