The U.S. recognizes March as Women’s History Month. It’s a time to celebrate women’s contributions to American history.
This year’s theme is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” The theme honors “women who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society.”
If you haven’t celebrated this month in the past, I encourage you to make this ritual part of your culture. It sends a clear message to potential and current team members that women are supported and will be treated well by the organization.
Openly honoring women supports your efforts to attract and retain this group that makes up about 47% of the workforce (Department of Labor). In today’s tight labor market, it’s important to share your organization’s values – such as inclusion and equality – to differentiate from the competition.
What About Men?
Some feel that celebrations shouldn’t be for a specific group of people, whether they are for women, minorities, or others. They argue that we should celebrate everyone rather than focus on a certain group.
All genders and races have brought our country to where it is today. And each has had its unique issues through which they had to persevere. Focusing attention on one group acknowledges and honors those struggles, and in doing so, expresses the value of the individuals who make up that group. Fortunately, there is enough recognition to go around; paying tribute to one group doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of another.
When President Jimmy Carter issued the Presidential Proclamation declaring what was at that time Women’s History Week, he summed this up eloquently, specifically regarding women, by saying,
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
International Men’s Day is in November and is celebrated in over 70 countries. Mark your calendar so you remember to express appreciation for the guys later in the year!
Women’s History Month celebrations can be simple or elaborate. If you’ve never recognized the holiday, you may want to start small. Here are a few simple ideas to start your creative juices flowing:
- In your company newsletter or at a meeting, feature women at all levels of your organization who are doing incredible things
- Write a thank-you note to each woman in your office
- Give everyone a book about women’s history such as Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!
- Send a company-wide email with TED talks from inspiring women throughout the month
- Play all-female music in the lunch room
- Send periodic emails to the team with about women’s accomplishments such as the ones on this website
- Watch a movie that honors women’s achievements such as A League of Their Own, a fictional movie inspired by the first female professional baseball league
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Here are some ideas of how to go beyond celebration and to learn more about great women to investing in and supporting women’s success in the future:
- Search for women-run businesses to use as vendors
- Conduct a fundraiser in which the organization matches employee donations to a women’s shelter or other women-focused charity – click here to get some ideas)
- Create a program in which employees can volunteer at a local women’s charity during work time
Let’s Walk the Talk
None of the above ideas will be perceived as genuine if women in your workforce are being discriminated against. This discrimination can take many forms, including overlooking women for promotions or developmental opportunities, unsubstantiated pay inequities for women, or gender-based harassment.
Make plans this month to do the following:
- Review your training and promotion practices
- Schedule training for employees and managers on how to avoid and take action against harrassment
- Perform an analysis of the pay of women and men in the same or similar positions to be sure bias hasn’t unconsciously crept into your compensation program
Remember to communicate to employees what you’re doing to prevent or rectify discrimination. If they know the organization takes discrimination seriously, they’ll partner with you to ensure that it doesn’t happen.
We’d love to hear how you celebrate Women’s History Month in a comment below.
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