Susan B. Anthony challenged suffrage when she attempted to cast a vote in the 1872 presidential election. Anthony was arrested and was never able to legally vote in her lifetime. But her efforts ultimately helped clear the path for the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote.
Rosa Parks challenged segregation when she refused to give up her seat to make room for white passengers boarding a Montgomery, Alabama city bus in 1955. Parks was arrested too. She was also fired from her job and was still receiving death threats years later. But her defiant act on that bus proved to be a crucial, course-changing moment in the burgeoning American civil rights movement.
Anthony and Parks are but two examples of women who dared to confront the status quo, who chose to challenge authority in the name of equality for the underrepresented and disadvantaged.
They’re also examples of the women that International Women’s Day (IWD) is intended to celebrate. In fact, “Choose to Challenge” is the theme for International Women’s Day 2021, which is commemorated today, March 8.
“From challenge comes change,” according to the International Women’s Day campaign, which is challenging individuals and organizations to “call out gender bias and inequality” throughout 2021.
This year, companies are celebrating International Women’s Day, and using the occasion to show their appreciation and support for women’s contributions to the workplace, in a number of ways.
At Merck & Co. Inc., for example, the Merck Women’s Network has already kicked off a month-long celebration that includes a session on building allyship between men and women, and a selfie #ChoosetoChallenge competition “with commitments to forge a gender-equal world, maintain a gender-equal mindset, challenge gender stereotypes and bias, forge visibility of women and celebrate women’s achievements,” said Michaela Leo, director of compensation at Merck.
Techcare company Asurion approaches International Women’s Day as an extension of the company’s ongoing effort to advance its female team members, said Jaede Ohlrich, vice president of human resources at the Nashville, Tenn.-based global provider of device protection and support services.
“Each day, every year, Asurion supports our women in the workplace through initiatives supporting diversity and inclusion,” said Ohlrich, “as well as leveraging Asurion’s employee resource group, Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), to focus on professional development and education in support of women.”
Throughout March, the organization is hosting a series of events to coincide with International Women’s Day. Asurion’s WIN group, for instance, is overseeing a “Better Together” education series and a WIN Families-hosted “Story Time” reading of Vice President Kamala Harris’s book, “Superheroes are Everywhere.” Additionally, team members will engage by attending events on well-being topics.
Siemens USA also has a full IWD slate of free, virtual events featuring speakers from around the world, focusing on this year’s Choose to Challenge theme.
One panel discussion, for example, will feature Siemens country CEOs from Africa, Asia and Europe, who will share their personal and regional perspectives on gender equality.
Another session will include the president and CEO of Siemens Germany and the CHRO of Siemens AG, among others, offering insight into how they address inequality. Later in the day, company leaders such as Marianne Kiener, the head of talent programs at Siemens AG, will highlight Siemens’ global, two-year graduate program — of which more than 50% of current participants are female.
“At Siemens, we want to illuminate the value that gender diversity brings to our business, to our innovation and to our competitiveness,” said Nichelle Grant, the head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Siemens USA.
“It’s why, for this International Women’s Day, we are bringing together inspiring speakers from around the world for a free virtual event that will focus on what it means to challenge ourselves and others to achieve greater gender equality.”
About the Author
Mark McGraw is managing editor of Workspan.