International Women’s Day – treading the fine line between credible and cringe

International Women's Day logo

Firms need to be careful about their IWD efforts on social media this year, writes Partner Katherine Howbrook, with increased scrutiny on the disparity between words and actions. Take a look at Katherine’s tips to ensure you are credible.

With International Women’s Day just around the corner, companies worldwide will, quite rightly, once again be revving up their social media engines to shout about the importance of gender equity across all facets of life, whether it’s the workplace, at home, women’s health, etc.

However, this year, we’re seeing a lot more caution about shouting too loudly as there is a fear of saying something that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Last year, many companies were publicly forced to look into an uncomfortable reflection in the mirror when their promotional activity was put alongside their gender pay gaps by the @PayGapApp Twitter bot.

The temptation is to batten down the hatches and say nothing. We’ve seen “greenhushing”, where companies downplay their green achievements for fear of scrutiny from the public and regulators. But just as saying the wrong thing is a risk, so is saying nothing. Saying nothing creates a vacuum which others will fill with damaging assumptions. Saying nothing also means you miss the opportunity to lead by example and differentiate yourselves from competitors on the societal and environmental issues that matter most to your customers, employees, future recruits, and the communities you operate in and depend on.

So, what’s the best way to make sure you are credible and avoid being badged as cringe?


  • Celebrate the achievements of women in your organisation and the wider community, but also acknowledge how far your organisation needs to go and say exactly what you’re doing about it.
  • Say precisely how your organisation is encouraging, promoting and increasing the participation of women in leadership and decision-making roles.
  • Use the day to not only raise awareness of gender equality and the importance of diversity and inclusion but to take action. Deeds, not words, are what matter most.
  • Use social media and other communication channels to amplify women’s voices and raise awareness of important issues.
  • Educate your employees on unconscious bias and provide training on how to be an effective ally for women in the workplace.
  • Say what your organisation is doing to level the playing field for men and women at work and at home, through changes to caregiving and parental policies for men, for example. The reality is that while women shoulder most of the weight of caring responsibilities at home, true equity at work will never be achieved.


  • Use International Women’s Day as a marketing ploy or an opportunity to promote your products and services.
  • Tokenise women or use them as props in your messaging or events.
  • Make assumptions about women’s experiences or needs. Instead, listen to and learn from their perspectives.
  • Focus on women’s issues one day a year. Instead, commit to ongoing efforts to promote gender equality and create an inclusive workplace culture.
  • Shy away from addressing complex or controversial issues. Use International Women’s Day to engage in meaningful conversations and promote positive change.
  • Forget the intersectionality of gender with other identities like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability etc. Ensure that your efforts are inclusive and considerate of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

In a nutshell, the intention behind your International Women’s Day activity should be to meaningfully further gender equality. Anything else comes across as thinly veiled self-interest, which doesn’t fool anyone.

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