Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Women's day: A brief history and Implication to firms

International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labor movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Women in Europe and America began to demand better working conditions. This was the first step in the social movement that led to several changes in labor policies.

A brief history of women's day

1909: The first National Woman's Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.

1910: The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women's Day, international in character, to honor the movement for women's rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.

1911: As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.

1913-1914: International Women's Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.

1917: Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

In 1975, during International Women's Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. In adopting its resolution, the General Assembly recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and an increase of support for women’s full and equal participation.

* Source: United Nations

Women in Business

Today women have equal rights. Several women have become CEOs, VPs etc - that would not
have been possible without a sustained effort to bring gender equality in all forms of life - including business. Co-incidently today, my company promoted Chitra Hariharan (a rare women engineer in semiconductor industry, who is well known for her leadership skills) to the role of Sr. Director Engineering

Women rights & needs have been incorporated into HR policies of most companies. Few companies such as HP, Accenture, Container Store etc, have implemented path breaking labor policies to help women employees. HP was the first company to have a day care to help mothers. Accenture in India is organizing a company wide event to help women network with other women & discuss issues facing women at work - this is hallmark of a progressive organization which is willing to learn the current issues with employees and seek to solve it.

Closing thoughts

In a knowledge economy trained & Skilled employees are highly valued. Organizations cannot afford to discriminate against women employees. Progressive organizations take path breaking HR policies which will make their company a great place to work for women. The onus on creating innovative HR policies lies squarely on senior management - but implementing these policies must be shared by all employees.


Natti said...

Check out what I wrote on this at

Linda said...

Don't you wanna discuss this topic in the women network?

paalok said...

Thanks for putting up the history!! I shared it on Facebook.