It’s that time of year again – International Women’s Day is back and our social feeds are full of messages of ‘empowerment’, ‘inspiration’, and ‘celebration’ from business accounts. 

Yet 77% of UK employers with more than 250 employees reported a gender pay gap in 2020-2021. So clearly, their messages of positivity and support don’t translate into action.

So if you manage a brand social account, how do you work out whether to post about International Women’s Day or not? Ask yourself these five questions and you’ll find your answer…

1. What are you hoping to achieve?

You might have big ideas about inspiring the next generation of women entrepreneurs, improving women’s safety, or overcoming gender biases.

But achieving these goals takes much more than one social post a year. And if you’re not working on challenging inequality all year round, that means either:

  • You’re not doing enough towards your goals
  • Your goals were never really about gender equality in the first place
  • All of the above

So think carefully about what your goals really are before you hit publish. And if the aims of International Women’s Day don’t line up with your actual goals – I’d recommend sitting this one out. Because ‘celebrating’ women doesn’t stop them getting killed by gender-based violence. An International Women’s Day panel discussion won’t stop me getting catcalled in the street. And a set of ‘smash the patriarchy‘ socks won’t close the gender pay gap. 

2. Do you have something worth saying? 

On International Women’s Day, and every day for that matter, the only reason to post is that you have something worth saying.

But to say something worth saying, you’ve got to be already doing something worth doing. I don’t mean posting a photo of a female employee, labelling her ‘strong’, ‘powerful’ or ‘inspirational’ and waiting for the likes to start pouring in. 

How does this strategy improve the lives of women? How does it remove the barriers preventing women from thriving?

It doesn’t. Show us your policies, tell us about your culture, talk about what problems you have and what you’re doing about them. And back up your claims with data.

3. Are you the best person to say it?

Who has the most authority and expertise on women’s experiences? Is it government departments, schools, charities, biscuit manufacturers, fashion brands?

Those with the most authority to speak on women’s lives are those who live them – so it’s unlikely that you, as a brand account, are the best spokesperson for women’s rights.

Be mindful that when brands communicate on International Women’s Day, it makes it more difficult for someone else’s voice to break through. And this might just be the voice that needs amplifying the most – women of colour, disabled women, working class women, LGBTQ+ women…

4. Why do you want to say it?

Is it because your competitors are? An overbearing director wants you to? Or just because it’s trending and you might improve your engagement metrics?

None of these are good enough reasons. 

International Women’s Day is not a Hallmark holiday, so don’t treat it like one –  it’s a day to reflect on what’s been achieved so far, while reminding ourselves of how much work is yet to be done. 

It’s not an opportunity to sell your products, boost your follower count, or give yourself a pat on the back for having one woman on your exec team.

5. What happens after International Women’s Day?

All too often it’s back to business as usual when International Women’s Day terms stop trending and gender equality drops out of the news cycle.

And that means companies return to perpetuating the inequalities they took a stand against on 8th March.

Airlines – where is your feminism when your flights deport migrant women to countries where they face violence, poverty, or worse?

Fast fashion retailers – does your support extend to the women who manufacture your clothes for pitiful wages?

Universities – do you still celebrate women when they report sexual assault on your campuses?

These positive, supportive posts don’t reflect what life is really like for the company’s female employees, customers, and service users. So unless your company supports all women and marginalised genders, all of the time, with actions and words, don’t use International Women’s Day as a promotional tool.

How to write an International Women’s Day post that doesn’t suck 

If you’ve decided that you’ve got something worth saying, and your actions and data back it up, go ahead and write your International Women’s Day post. Some things to bear in mind before you do:

Be clear and specific

None of this vague ‘we’re proud to support women’ nonsense. Show us how you support women. Talk specifically about your policies and activities and the value they bring.

Don’t make it all about you

International Women’s Day is not about your business. So don’t put yourself in the centre. Less ‘we’ve done this cool thing’ and more ‘this is how Zahra benefits from this cool thing’.

Stand by your words

Maintain your support all year round, and don’t wait for a trending topic to talk about it. Keep speaking up even when it seems difficult; just like Hitchin Library did when anti-trans activists criticised their new reading mascot:

One final thought…

If you want to nurture a loyal, engaged community on social media, you need to do more than jump on the back of trending terms.

Some brands do it really well (IKEA’s Wordle-themed shelving unit, for example). But the reason it’s successful is that IKEA made a connection between the trend (Wordle), and something the brand is already known for (square storage units, and its playful yet practical design approach). 

Trends can be useful for generating content ideas, but for the best chance of success choose only the ones relevant to you, your products, and how you work. And for most companies, International Women’s Day isn’t one of them.


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