International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8th to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. On this day especially, while it’s important to acknowledge the progress that has been made in terms of gender equality, it is equally as important to also recognize that there is still much work to be done. Women continue to face discrimination and inequality in the workplace, in politics, and in their personal lives.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is #EmbraceEquity – the goal is to work towards a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive; a world where differences are valued and celebrated!

international women's day 2023

An organization that is constantly working to celebrate women and the value of the work that we do is the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Founded almost 50 years ago, NAWBO is the unified voice of over 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. and is a one-stop resource to support and propel women business owners into greater economic, social and political spheres of power. The NAWBO presence is widespread, with local chapters found all across the nation, including right here in Philadelphia, PA.

International Women’s Day: Embracing Equity Today and Every Day

In honor of International Women’s Day 2023, I sat down with a few different members of NAWBO’s Greater Philadelphia Chapter, to learn more about what IWD means to them, challenges women face today, and how we can collectively make progress towards gender equality.

What does International Women’s Day 2023 mean to you, and why is it important?

Christina“Even before becoming an attorney, my passion has been protecting the rights of women.  My college thesis was about protecting women on college campus from date and acquaintance rape.  I worked at a women’s shelter and interviewed battered women for a research study the University was conducting. Now, as an attorney and founder of Loutel Law, a legal and DEI company, I continue to work to advance the rights of equality and fairness for all people. I sit on the Advisory Board of Victims Voice, a technology start-up that assists victims in documenting the right information to get protection and seek legal justice. Lastly, I currently serve as President of the NAWBO Greater Philadelphia Chapter.  The theme of my Presidency is Embrace the Relationships and Embrace our Differences.  My goal is to educate and create environments that advance the position of women business owners in Greater Philadelphia. International Women’s Day encapsules all that I try to do every day. But more importantly, it raises greater awareness of the importance of a gender free world on a national and international level.”

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing women today?

Angela – ”While improvements are being made, barriers still exist in the areas of acquiring capital and in the provision of support for women to grow their businesses. I am thinking primarily here of the situation in many families where the responsibility for home and children is not a shared one. Things have improved a lot since the 70s and 80s here in the US but we could still do more.”

Ana adds“What I see as one of the biggest challenges facing women in this day and age in the United States, is being able to take an extended paid maternity leave. Child care for a lot of women is probably one of the biggest challenges, and not being able to spend enough quality time with their children during the formative years.”

What steps can individuals and organizations take to promote gender equality in the workplace? How can we continue to build momentum and make progress towards gender equality beyond International Women’s Day?

Christina“So first, organizations should be talking about gender equity before they can talk about equality.  Equality means giving everyone the same things – women (and those that identify as women) do not start at the same place as men – men have privilege in the workplace (women have to work harder to achieve the same as men).  So, you have to first talk about equity – giving women what they need to succeed – only then can you look at equality.  Organizations need to invest in and support women through mentor and sponsor programs, leadership development, and access and opportunities…Organizations need to look at the impact of bias throughout the employee life-cycle for women – are they evaluating the woman fairly (is she too aggressive for instance or too quiet), does she have access to leaders, is she being developed, is she getting paid the same as a similarly-situated man?”

Angela“As women, we need to continue to speak out AND persevere by continuing to speak out if we feel our voices are not being heard, when we see gender inequality in the workplace and in our communities. We also need to support women by our actions.  Praise them when they have achieved milestones and always reach out a hand to support if you witness a woman struggling. Supporting women owned businesses is also another way to support women beyond International Women’s Day. Show her you believe in her by patronizing her business. And finally, use the power of your vote for equality. Research candidates and cast your vote accordingly or better yet, consider a run for office yourself.”

All of you have been very successful at building your own businesses, while continuously supporting other women and working towards building a better future. What advice would you give to young women who are just starting their careers or looking to make a difference in the world?

Ana“I would strongly encourage them to find a professional woman who is willing to mentor them. NAWBO has a wonderful program called Semi-Circle, which offers NAWBO members connections, access and learning opportunities to women who are inspired to grow their businesses. It is designed to help women entrepreneurs overcome growth challenges, increase their revenues, expand their footprint and learn new skills, and each woman is individually matched with a mentor who shares advice on business best practices, as well as contacts who can assist participants on their journey of business growth.”

Christina“Women just starting their careers need to build self-confidence and not be afraid to take risks.  Know your value and have a voice (erode imposter syndrome).  Really celebrating successes and learning and growing from failures.  Also finding mentors and sponsors is critical.  These two roles are not the same.  A mentor or mentors are like – a personal Board of Directors – to fill various needs the woman has, to provide advice and guidance, offer suggestions, and assist the young woman in critical thinking to come to solutions on her own.  A sponsor is someone in a leadership role, maybe someone in the board room, who will rally and champion for that young woman.  When raise time comes, the sponsor is part of the conversation to say, “I know her, she works hard, I see her in the morning when I come in, etc.”  Finding someone who has taken a path in the way she wants to take the path can be helpful as a role model, sponsor or mentor.”

Angela“My advice would be to expect success and settle for nothing less. Align with the people, organizations, programs, services, and other avenues of support that will get you the success you want and deserve. Consider every “maybe” answer you receive as a “not yet” and every “no” as an invitation for you dig deeper to see if you can supply more information to turn that no to a maybe or a yes. It’s going to be difficult at times, but I am a strong believer in the fact that the things in life that are worth having – rarely come easily. The sweetness lies in knowing you persevered, and you did it!”

Supporting Women on International Women’s Day 2023 and Beyond

One way to support women on International Women’s Day and every day is to actively advocate for gender equality. This can be done by speaking out against sexism and misogyny, challenging gender stereotypes, and supporting women in leadership roles. It’s also important to support and uplift women from marginalized communities, who often face additional barriers to equality. Another way to support women is to celebrate their accomplishments and contributions to society. This can be done by highlighting the work of female artists, scientists, politicians, and activists, and by promoting the stories and perspectives of women in media and popular culture.

While International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the progress we’ve made in terms of gender equality and to reaffirm our commitment to working towards a more inclusive and equal world for women, it is also a reminder that this has to be the fabric of our being and not just something we focus on once a year. Women need to continuously be willing to support other women. Let’s all choose to challenge gender bias and inequality, and to support and uplift women in all aspects of life!