International Women’s Day ‘hijacked by virtue signallers’ – business support group

Sue Oshikanlu

A key women’s business support organisation is shunning International Women’s Day this week, claiming it has been hijacked by company’s to ‘virtue signal’ and gain kudos.

The Women’s Organisation, a social enterprise based in Liverpool and Manchester, has supported more than 60,000 women and helped to create in excess of 4,000 businesses since its foundation in 1996.

But it said it will not officially observe International Women’s Day (IWD) this Friday (March 8), arguing that IWD should be about taking action to create a more equal, prosperous, safe, and inclusive world for women.

It said each year, public and private bodies engage in performative actions and events without genuinely addressing tangible issues faced by women, including the gender pay gap, workplace discrimination, and the unequal distribution of public investment in women’s support services.

According to the organisation, women are angry that IWD is being “hijacked” by organisations who superficially mark IWD through one-off events and social media marketing, while their policies and day-to-day practices consistently neglect the specific needs and challenges faced by women.

Sue Oshikanlu the chair of The Women’s Organisation Charity, said: “Women are tired of the constant stream of events, panels and social media noise which is a convenient distraction from taking concrete actions that could truly impact women’s lives.

“For example, securing funding when starting a business, affording childcare, public investment in women’s services or providing assistance with their workplace wellness.”

The Women’s Organisation Social Enterprise Chairperson, Pat Shea Halson, said that IWD is being used by some as a mere marketing and PR opportunity which undermines and trivialises the significance of the day, overshadowing its core message: “We celebrate women’s achievement and acknowledge their struggles 364 days of the year and it is unacceptable when we see organisations openly celebrate themselves on IWD.

“However, when checking the Gender Pay Gap BOT @PayGapApp they are paying their female staff 20% less than their male staff and in some cases the gap is much wider,” said Pat.

“We urge all women and men to call out and challenge inequality where they see it. We call for real action rather than platitudes and for organisations to take practical and measurable actions to improve gender equality.”

This year, The Women’s Organisation said it will concentrate on supporting women by advocating for their Women’s Workplace Wellness programme to SME’s and asking them to take up the training and resources to help their female employees.

“It’s time to call for tangible actions, investments, and support for women, and move beyond mere words” said Sue Oshikanlu.

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