What about International Men’s Day?

Yesterday we celebrated International Women’s Day. If you didn’t hear about it, you must have been in a social media blackout!  

International Women’s Day is a global event celebrating women’s achievements and calls for gender equality. It started in the early 1900s, following great unrest and social inequality among women who demanded better pay and voting rights. It is becoming increasingly popular and this year, it seemed to completely hijack my social media feeds, as friends and celebrities joined in to show their support.

International Women’s Day was also celebrated throughout the Linklaters’ office over the course of the week, with purple balloons and alerts showcasing the firm’s pro bono work that has empowered and supported women in the past 12 months.

But a common theme also emerged from my family, friends, colleagues and social media contacts of both genders asking, “why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?”. Well, there is, it just doesn’t get as much airtime as International Women’s Day. For those of you that are not already aware, International Men’s Day is on 19 November.

International Women’s Day attracts more attention than International Men’s Day and whilst this might seem sexist, it is not just about British women demanding equality in the workplace; it is an international initiative as women across the world still fight for equality in all aspects of their lives.

So, should employers be preparing to celebrate International Men’s Day on 19 November?

As employers actively celebrate International Women’s Day whilst International Men’s Day goes by unmentioned, the purpose of International Women’s Day can be misunderstood and end up being divisive between groups, particularly in the workplace.

The objectives of both days are essentially the same. They both have a focus on health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality and highlighting positive role models, allowing each gender to respectively celebrate their achievements and contributions to their families and communities, while highlighting discrimination against them.

However, not everyone ‘gets’ it. Some find it patronising or feel that they do not need or want a special day to celebrate their achievements when others do not have an opportunity to do the same. Others feel that it creates a bigger divide between male and female colleagues.

If employers want to actively celebrate International Women’s Day with their workforce (and there are endless positives for doing so), it is important to make sure that the real purpose of celebrating the day is made clear. Ultimately, the purpose of International Women’s Day is to showcase a commitment to global gender equality which everyone can support by having a united voice; it should not be used as a day to discriminate against men and/or positively discriminate for women.

Whilst International Women’s Day will inevitably continue to hold the spotlight over International Men’s Day, employers may also want to consider putting 19 November in their diaries.