International Women’s Day 2019: 4 Steps to Build a Gender-Balanced Workplace

In this era of #MeToo and Time’s Up, plenty of people are taking a stand for equality for all. Not only is that a reason to cheer, but with International Women’s Day (IWD) around the corner on March 8, there’s never been a better time for businesses to take stock of gender equality in the workplace.

The theme of this year’s IWD campaign is #BalanceforBetter — a call to celebrate womankind’s achievements while working to achieve a gender-balanced world all year long. Because equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue and it requires continuous collective action and shared ownership to drive it forward.

A lot has changed since the first International Women’s Day took place in 1911, supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. For one, 64% of women in Ireland today are working, compared to just 27.3% in 1971, according to data from the Central Statistics Office. But more remains to be done. 

As Hillary Clinton declared at the UN’s Fourth World Congress on Women in Beijing in 1995, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights”. It’s a statement that still resonates today, 24 years later.

Here are four steps your business can take to support women and start building a gender-balanced workplace:

1. Provide equal pay for equal work

Review employee compensation, taking into account factors such as job function, responsibilities, level and years of experience to ensure everyone is paid equally for equal work and close any gaps that exist. Similarly, review and revise policies around parental leave, flexible working and paid time off so that they support gender balance.

2. Create a supportive, inclusive culture

It’s important to ensure that women are not only considered for leadership positions but also supported at every stage of their careers so they can reach their full potential. Consider The 30% Club, set up in 2010 to improve gender balance in leading companies globally. The Irish chapter, which launched in 2015, is aiming for 30% female representation in senior management by 2020.

3. Encourage mentorships

Workplace mentoring programmes for women are crucial to close gender gaps in the workplace. Everyone needs a role model at work and mentors can play a critical role in personal and professional development. The same goes for providing learning and development opportunities to help female employees advance in their careers.

4. Foster female networks

Start a women’s network initiative to help your staff inspire and learn from each other while sharing experiences, career goals and achievements. You’ll be providing them with the tools and resources they need to build connections, gain advice and feel supported in the workplace.


Looking for some inspiration? Here are five multinational giants that stand out for their equality efforts.

General Motors

Mary Barra, CEO of U.S.-based automaker General Motors (GM), is the company’s first female chief executive. She’s also the first woman in history to hold such a position at a major global car manufacturer. That’s not all: GM has an equal number of men and women sitting on its board of directors and has pay equality across all bands of the business.

International Women's Day 2019 Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors


French beauty brand L’Oreal has 82,600 employees worldwide — 69% of whom are women. Furthermore, women represent 33% and 48% of its executive and management committees respectively as well as 62% of its global brand general managers. The company is also committed to maintaining a high gender equality standard and works with EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) and GEEIS (Gender Equality European and International Standard) to regularly audit its staff and hiring policies.


Global drinks giant Diageo has several policies in place to ensure that women are adequately represented within the business, that gender equality is promoted among its employees and that females are empowered throughout its supply chain. Currently, 40% of the company’s executive committee are women and it’s aiming for its global senior leadership team to be 40% female by 2025.


Equality is a core value at tech titan Salesforce, spanning equal pay, equal rights, equal education and equal opportunity. Committed to the Glassdoor Equal Pay Pledge, the company conducts regular audits of its employee compensation across the entire organisation and adjusts salaries as necessary. Plus, 35% of its new hires in 2018 were women — up 2% from the previous year.


Luxury fashion powerhouse Kering is committed to supporting women’s development in the workplace through initiatives such as mentoring and leadership programmes — and it’s paying off. Today, women make up 63% of its total workforce, including 56% of managers, 33% of the executive committee and 60% of the board of directors.

Men and women alike want to work for employers with strong company culture, whose ethics and values align with their own — and equality is an essential element of that. After all, when women rise, men do too. Research from Accenture shows that in companies with cultures that help women advance, everyone thrives: women are 42% more likely to progress to manager level or above and men are 20% more likely to do so.

Moreover, as the 30% Club points out, a gender-balanced boardroom and equality in the executive ranks incites better leadership and governance and improves performance all-round, for both companies and their shareholders. So it’s in your company’s best interests to support women and promote gender equality at work.

Do you need help shining a light on your company’s inclusion and diversity efforts? 

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