#IWD2019: Crowns Instead of Flowers

March 8, 2019 marked 110 years of International Women’s Day – a day intended to celebrate the progress of women’s equality around the globe and to ask us to take a deeper look at what still needs to be done to promote equality and recognize achievements too often overlooked by women.

While there are many approaches to what this celebration looks like in the workplace, some companies fall short when it comes to execution. Pro-tip: gifting female staff a “spa day” or flowers as a thank you for being a woman isn’t only infantilizing, it damages the message of progress and hurts your office culture.

Sorry, you may have thought you were being nice, but it’s true.

I would be shocked to find any grown woman who hasn’t winced when being referred to as a “girl” (even when hidden inside a compliment, e.g., “she’s a smart girl” or “that girl is a real go getter”), or having her talents compared to that of a manager’s mother or wife. To encourage shallow comparisons that liken female professionals to domestic relationships of male colleagues is reinforced when women are “rewarded” with equally shallow tokens of appreciation, such as flowers or beauty services.

To further the point, not all women enjoy flowers and manicures. This assumption not only plays on a deeply offensive and outdated gender bias, but reinforces to female staff that their contribution to the company is merely superficial. This creates resentment at best and hostility at worst, which is a quick road to a crumbling office culture (especially considering that women make up 48% of Canada’s current workforce).

This is why we took a different route.

We chose to put out information on our current favourite books, podcasts and films (along with a quick lesson on the bechdel test), as well as staff prompts visible in the office asking Publicans to write about a woman that the rest of us should know about and why, as well as what experiences they have that their mothers hadn’t (the latter being specifically for female staff). We also went to a matinee showing of Captain Marvel this past Tuesday to support Marvel’s first female lead (and have some time outside of the office).

Lastly, our Resource Director, David, reimagined our playful avatars who live in the ‘People’ section of our website with crowns as a cute (but not infantilizing) visual representation of the obstacles our female staff have conquered.

While this year’s International Women’s Day may have come and gone in a sea of good intentions painted with office manicures and bouquets of flowers, let’s remember to support our female colleagues, peers and employees ways that celebrate progress without all the patronizing, gendered BS.

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