IWD 2024: Beyond Checking the Box- Uplifting and Investing In Women Everyday

Wema Hoover
5 min readMar 8, 2024

Since the United Nations formally recognized International Women’s Day in 1977, March 8th has been a call to action to acknowledge the experiences and celebrate the achievements of women around the globe.

Despite the tremendous advancements women have made since the late 1970s, we can’t ignore the very real challenges that continue to persist for women globally — including for women in the workplace and women entrepreneurs who continue to face familiar barriers: the struggle for equal pay, equitable career advancement and representation in the ranks within the corporate and public sectors and on corporate boards.

The most recent Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and LeanIn.Org confirms that many of these barriers remain stubbornly in place and highlights that women have seen modest gains throughout the corporate pipeline — rising from 17 to 28 percent in the years since 2015 — but women of color remain underrepresented in the C-suite.

The stats are even more staggering for equal pay where women only make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men with women of color, faring far worse making only 67 cents for every dollar earned by men.

In short, women’s progression in both corporate and in entrepreneurship has not accelerated and resembles a pyramid. The closer you get to the top, the less likely you are to see women in positions of influence and authority, operate at their highest potential in leadership and to receive equal funding for their start-up businesses or ventures.

Common micro-inequities are quick to characterize women as simply “less ambitious.” But the reality is that women are just as committed to their careers and advancement as their male colleagues — especially the next generation. Nine in ten women under 30 aspire to be promoted to the next level, and three in 4 aspire to serve in senior leadership roles. And with regard to entrepreneurship, women are starting businesses at a significantly higher rate than ever, up 21% over a two-year period from 2019 through 2021.

In a world where women represent at least half of the population, are just as ambitious and skilled, it’s critical to move beyond token gestures of inclusion and tackle the core drivers of these disparities.

Instead of approaching diversity as a dutiful “box to check”, we need to focus on the untapped potential when we leave women behind and don’t facilitate their growth and development.

Activating equity for women, through representation, equal pay and entrepreneurship, is not a women’s issue or a gender issue; it’s a societal issue that must be addressed to gain the full access to talent and skills from the global workforce.

The International Labor Organization estimates that if we take steps to close the gender gap by 25%, we will add $5.8 trillion to the global economy. Investing in women improves all aspects of society; health, education, and economies in every part of the world.

The good news here is that we can take concrete steps to diversify and sustain a pipeline of leaders, business owners, and public officials who more accurately reflect 50% of our population — and who will make our society stronger.

Push for greater transparency:

A key actions is to tackle one of the biggest barriers to progress is the unwritten rule and belief that salaries must be kept quiet and not shared.

Fortunately, the next generation vehemently rejects this practice and is practicing “radical transparency” — sharing their salaries and salary progress in viral videos and openly sharing what they make with colleagues.

It’s long past time to rethink outdated practices that put job candidates at a disadvantage and have a disproportionate negative affect on women. For example, asking them to disclose their salary history which traditionally is lower and thereby perpetuates unequal pay. More states are increasingly taking action to outlaw these antiquated practices which in turn will lead to greater transparency and drive more equal pay for women.

Make development a priority:

When the time comes to making the leap to a major role, too many women are passed over for a supposed skills mismatch.

Organizations can do much more to intervene early and create opportunities for early and mid-career professionals to develop these skills; whether it’s encouraging them to serve on boards or take on stretch opportunities that allow them to build new skills or expand and grow the ones they have.

Additionally, communities should commit to investing in local chambers of commerce to support the development and advancement of women-owned businesses to support and activate economic equity for them across every industry.

Focus on succession planning:

Organizations must address the cultural biases that reinforce and associate success with what are traditionally “masculine-coded” characteristics to systemically improve succession planning practices.

To overcome these hurdles, organizations need to redefine what success looks like and adopt a more inclusive leadership model that encompasses different management styles and ways of engaging, developing, and retaining talent. They must more effectively plan for potential successors by intentionally diversifying and developing the pool of candidates well before roles are open and require “ready now” successors.

Changing this status quo will require us to rethink cultural assumptions about what a leader looks like, how they lead and the ways in which they effectively impact and influence.

With a much-needed increased focus on well-being and mental health in the workplace, some of these cultural assumptions are being challenged. We have seen a major change in attitudes towards our traditional ideas of work-life balance, self-care and bringing your full self to work. These behaviors are increasingly being re-examined, challenged and positively disrupted to allow for greater acceptance of women and accepting them as a whole-person.

Build boardrooms and workplaces that look like America:

While women today make up over 50% of college graduates, not to mention graduates from law and MBA programs, they still are severely under-represented in the most senior ranks of leadership.

It’s long past time that we demand the same level of representation in the workplace, in entrepreneurship incubators, and in the boardroom– not through top-down quotas, but by rethinking how we cultivate cultures that enable the full spectrum of women’s talents, abilities, and ways of working.

With intention, together we can build workplaces that better reflect our society and ways to include everyone in it by investing, empowering and uplifting women everywhere and everyday.

#IWD2024 #InvestInWomen #inclusion #equity



Wema Hoover

Wema Hoover is an executive Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practitioner. She has over 15 years of experience leading global DEI teams across Fortune 500 Company.