Embrace equity? I’d rather give it a kick in the rear

Virginie O’Shea, founder of Firebrand Research, offers her perspective on the theme behind this year’s International Women’s Day.

Every year, International Women’s Day rolls around and everyone under the sun rolls out their campaigns to highlight their “inspirational female leaders” and the IWD hashtags start flying all over social media.  

There’s always a theme because what’s a celebratory day without a theme? Some hackneyed, trite phrase that is meant to sum up the experiences of women across the globe and inspire them to change the world (or some such other nonsense). 

This year, the theme has annoyed me so much that I felt compelled to blog about it. 

IWD 2023 is all about “embracing equity,” according to the IWD website and the numerous hashtags we’re being encouraged to post alongside a selfie of us hugging ourselves. The men aren’t being left completely out – on the website there is also a chap awkwardly standing with his arms wrapped around his torso like he’s in a commercial for M&S cashmere jumpers or Lemsip (after all, it’s a “hug in a mug”). Or, in the case of these selfies, a mug in a hug. 

When I first saw the campaign, I thought it might actually be a joke. How can women embrace equity, when we’re so far away from it. In fact, studies are highlighting that post-pandemic, economic gaps have widened rather than narrowed.  

Many firms are also failing to meet their diversity targets and the anti-environmental, social and governance (ESG) backlash isn’t likely to help matters. It feels like we’re moving backwards again rather than forwards, or, in the best scenario, treading water. 

Embracing equity seems to imply that we won’t move forward as an industry unless women embrace the current reality. And, quite simply, I don’t want to embrace it. I’d rather give it a kick in the rear end.