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International Women’s Day: Choose to Challenge

Mar 8, 2021
HR Acuity

Today is International Women’s Day and the theme for 2021 is “Choose to Challenge.”

The official International Women’s Day campaign defines this theme as follows: “We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”


Now more than ever, it’s important to challenge the inequalities women are facing. Below are some statistics from the 2020 Women in the Workplace Study outlining the difficulties women of all race, age and orientation have faced over the past year.

  • Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the Covid-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security.
  • One in three mothers may be forced to scale back or opt out of the workforce due to childcare responsibilities.
  • Senior-level women are 1.5 times more likely than senior-level men to think about downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of Covid-19. Almost 3 in 4 cite burnout as a main reason.
  • Since the start of Covid-19, Black women are more likely than other employees to think about leaving the workforce because of concerns over their health and safety.
  • 1 in 4 women are contemplating what many would have considered unthinkable less than a year ago: downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce.

In addition to the effects Covid-19 had on women in the workforce, employees were also impacted by political and social activities raising discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion. Employers were forced to recognize how these events all influenced their employees, and to make changes in their policies and procedures to accommodate these priorities in the workplace.

As a way to celebrate the women that we work with every day, we asked to hear from women in our employee relations community on initiatives they have implemented, or are planning to implement, to address the challenges that have emerged in the past year. Below is insight from two of our community members.

Michele Sommer, SVP Director of Employee Relations at Citizens Bank

At Citizens Bank, we implemented “Recognize the Silver Lining” and “Fun Friday” to help the ER team lead and thrive through COVID, BLM and the election. “Recognize the Silver Lining” was all about finding the positive in what was going on – for example – the ER team received over 200 recognition awards worth over $13,000 in 2020 when in past years it was in the handfuls. We spoke to thousands of colleagues and they were thanking us.

“Fun Friday” was 30 minutes each week just for us to talk, catch up personally, relax and have fun. Sometimes we went for group walks, sometimes we played Jeopardy. Either way we laughed a lot and learned new things and grew closer as a team.

While implementing these initiatives, we saw our Organizational Health Index scores went up. Employee engagement is up and collaboration is up. We also saw colleagues who never volunteered for extra assignments are doing so. We’ve seen employee performance improve across the board since implementing these new activities.

Kim Walters, Global Employee Relations Manager, Aramex

Over the past year, we have implemented a new initiative: Community in Practice – Women in Leadership. A lean-in network for women to mentor and support one another with events, external speakers and a sense of a community. We’ve seen success by implementing this new community. We measure this initiative through engagement on workplace, participation in events, pulse surveys, OHI scores for women.

We are proud of all the strong women that we work with, live with and interact with on a daily basis. We all need to keep supporting each other and “choose to challenge” the inequities we see and face every day. If you would like to share with us what you are doing at your organization, please connect with me at

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