Has International Women's Day lost its significance?

Social Enterprise Chairperson Pat Shea Halson said International Women's Day is being used by some purely for marketing purposes.

A leading women's charity has decided not to observe International Women's Day because of what it claims are "empty gestuers and virtue signalling."

The Women's Organisation, the largest women economic development agency in the UK, argues that the day should be about taking action to create a more equal, prosperous, safe, and inclusive world for women.

But it says public and private bodies "engage in performative actions and events without genuinely addressing tangible issues faced by women."

International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.

Events have taken place around the globe, including many in the UK.

But the Liverpool-based charity said women are angry that the day 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."

Coleen Rooney arrives for an International Women's Day event organised by entrepreneur Julie Perry in Manchester. Credit: PA

Sue Oshikanlu, Chair of The Womens Organisation, 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.”

This year, the charity is concentrating on advocating for their Women’s Workplace Wellness programme to help female employees at small to medium-sized businesses.

Social Enterprise Chairperson Pat Shea Halson said that International Women's Day is being used by some as a mere marketing and PR opportunity which undermines and trivialises the significance of the day.

“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.”

Equality campaigner Lisa Maynard-Atem agrees that the day is just a gesture, often publicised by businesses and organisations that are still paying their female employees less than male counterparts.

In an interview on Granada Reports she said inequality is still rife and annual 'day' events do nothing to change that.

However, the Chief Constable of Merseyside said there is still a place for International Women's Day.

Speaking at the first She Inspires football tournament of 260 girls from across the county, Serena Kennedy said, "International Women's Day is a moment for us to pause, celebrate the successes and what we achieved, but also to actually have a look at the challenges women face and say what else do we need to do?"