International Women’s Day: gender equality should be the standard

International Women’s Day: gender equality should be the standard

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, celebrated each year on 8 March, will be “Empowering women, empowering humanity – Picture it!”

From the origins to today

International Women’s Day originated from the labour movements that sprang up in North America and all over Europe at the turn of the 20th century. The choice of 8 March can be linked to a big meeting that was organised in New York on 8 March 1908 by thousands of female workers to denounce the poor working conditions and child labour in the textile industry, and to demand respect for women’s rights. It was on the occasion of International Women’s Day in 1975, that the United Nations decided to commemorate this day yearly on 8 March.

Forty years on, this day fully retains its relevance. During the recent Oscar ceremony, actress Patricia Arquette, after winning an Oscar for her performance in Boyhood, made an engaging acceptance speech, in which she called for wage equality between men and women, once and for all, in the United States.

It is yet another sign that the struggle by women for equal rights is far from over.

The theme: Empowering women

In 2015 International Women’s Day will highlight the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments 20 years ago, which sets the agenda for realizing women’s rights and focuses on 12 critical areas of concern.

It envisions a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination. While these rights may seem evident to us, much remains to be done before they become a reality in many developing and developed countries.

The link with standardisation: ISO 26000

The ISO 26000 standard on societal responsibility deals with a number of interesting issues, such as: governance, labour relations and conditions, the environment, the fight against corruption, human rights, community involvement and development etc. This standard contains a number of text boxes that provide supplementary guidance or illustrative examples. One of these boxes deals specifically with gender equality. It states that organisations should review their decisions and activities to eliminate gender bias and promote gender equality.

The standard adds some practical examples:
- the mix of men and women in the organisation's governing structure and management
- equal treatment of men and women workers in recruitment, job assignment, training, opportunities for advancement etc.
- equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.