The origin of
International Women's Day started over 100 years ago: First, National Women's Day in 1909, which celebrated garment workers in New York protesting for better work conditions. Then in 1910, a Women's Day was established to support the fight for universal suffrage. Finally in 1911, International Women's Day marked the day of protest in Europe for women's right to vote and work.
This fight continues today. The progress of women in the workplace has no doubt come a long way, but there are still so many hurdles for women all around the world: from pay parity; to creating good, high-paying jobs for women; to equity at home with regards to unpaid domestic work; to initiatives that would ensure talented women can reach the highest levels of business and public office.
We asked 11 women around the world the one thing they'd like to see change at work. Click ahead to see what millennial women hope for the future of female work in their countries.
In honor of International Women’s Day, Refinery29 is asking women to pay-it-forward by endorsing a female colleague or expert in their field. Head here to discover inspiring women across all of the categories R29 covers. Mabel Simpson Founder and creative director of mSimps, an award-winning accessory manufacturing company and creative enterprise in Accra, Ghana. mSimps focuses on handmade leather handbags, slippers, loafers, laptop bags and sleeves, throw pillows, and travel luggage with the primary goal of exhibiting quality "Made in Ghana" products. Country
"One change I’d like to see in my workplace is the ability to employ nursing mothers. Why? Until recently, when I employed a nursing mother, I didn’t understand and have foreknowledge about her fears (and I’m sure there are many like her) of not being accepted because of her child. This is due to the fact that she will have to attend to her child intermittently to feed the baby, cuddle when she’s crying, change diapers etc. Not many employers may find this welcoming as it may slow down work."
Anggela Sara García General Manager of IMSA, manufacturers for coffee and cacao processing machines. Soon to open a coffee school in IMSA. Member of the International Women's Coffee Alliance. Country
"What I would like to change in my current work is improvement of credibility.
"When people see my title on my business card, I'd like it if they didn’t look at me with doubt because of my gender or my age. I'd like partners who won't doubt my knowledge and capacities and check my work twice just because I am a women or too young.
"Currently they are 50 men and three women at my company; I would like to increase the number of women working here. What makes a good worker shouldn’t be related to gender. I would like to see women in high-heel shoes manage a production factory like this, and if they want to smile and be kind, it won't be mistaken as flirting. I'd like people to stop whispering when I'm speaking, just because I'm not a man. Most of all, I'd like to be heard without raising my voice.
"For generations, this line of work was managed by men. Today, I'm the leader here. I would like to have more women leading companies and factories like this one, all around the world.”
Megumi Moss Founder and CEO of CareFinder, a bilingual babysitter matching website Country:
"I worked in the corporate world for majority of my career and spent 10 years at Sony. When I was trying to have a child while working at Sony, I realized there was a major childcare shortage in Japan. After learning about U.S. babysitting services from my husband, I decided I needed to leave the corporate world and start something similar in Japan. Soon after, I founded CareFinder.
"Same as the corporate world, I realized that in the startup world in Japan, there are not enough women role models who manage a company with having children. We need more women role models in the startup world. If there had been more women role models for me then I would have probably left the corporate world sooner. I would like to be one of the role models for younger women and encourage them to start companies themselves."
Melissa Hegge Norwegian digital nomad, photographer, and blogger at Idea To Steal working with social media and marketing. Country
"Being from Norway, I do feel privileged that we have a society that values equality a lot more than other countries.
"But it's not perfect. I'd like to see women getting equal pay for doing the same job that men do. Companies should include equal pay as part of their vision, and have policies to make sure men and women are paid the same for equal work.
"At the same time, I also think, we as women also need to be better to negotiate when it comes to salary regardless of whether we're self-employed or working at a company. We should see our self-worth and ask for the pay to match it."
Sarah Diouf Founder of a 100% Made in Africa clothing line called Tongoro, and a media company Ifren aiming to bring change into the African visual landscape with publications such as Ghubar, a fashion, culture, & arts digital magazine, and NOIR, a fashion, beauty, & lifestyle magazine for Black women. Country
"I would love to see women sticking together and engaging in healthy competition when it comes to work. Womanhood is one of the toughest journies as human, and we should be more compassionate and understanding instead of unfairly beating up each other.
"I would also love to see more women standing up for themselves, not being afraid to speak their mind and share their ideas in spaces where they are in minority.
"I believe parity at work — especially in positions of power — is something that should be improved. I have tremendous respect for women who have found inner and time balance between running households and working full-time, yet despite their (sometimes) exhaustion, are still showing compassion and understanding for others. Let’s try to implement more of this in our work environments."
Miranda Field Student Support Teacher, Ph.D. student, Canadian Teachers’ Federation Advisory Committee Member on the Status of Women. Country
"Beyond the difficulties and demands surrounding raising a family and working to advance oneself professionally, one challenge I would be interested in seeing further developed is genuine opportunity for leadership and advancement. Within the teaching profession, and other female-dominated professions, it still amazes me that the majority of leadership positions are held by men. There are many contributing reasons for this, none of which have been clearly justified or validated to allow me to believe it is built upon attributes and abilities. There needs to be ways for women, particularly young women, to showcase their leadership abilities in meaningful and realistic means.
"To initiate more young women involved in leadership, opportunities must exist. Movement within a profession should not be built upon who you know and who you are willing to put in favors for. To begin, within the teaching profession, positions at all levels of leadership should be open to women in a way that those applying have the opportunity to showcase their skills. A paper résumé/CV and reference letters may not truly represent what this individual has to offer. With the technology that exists, there is opportunity for online portfolios, video sessions, video exemplars, and multimedia platforms that may allow the decision makers to view the actual skills that are required for a position.
"Having more women represented in leadership positions will benefit the workforce, but in ways many have not entertained. Quotas are the fastest method to increase female involvement at all levels. Quotas allow for an equal representation on boards and leadership teams and are a stepping point to shifting the current leadership design. More women in leadership may allow for more collaborative leadership models, which in turn may support the never-ending seek of work/life/family balance. Collaborative leadership models may open more cohesive and practical mentorship opportunities which will only benefit the industry in the future. Seeing more women in leadership positions broadens our visibility and scope and provides a platform to be seen as more than just ‘helpers’."
Margaret Kadi Founder of an ethical brand called Pangea, which specializes in Sierra Leone-made products including furniture, home decor and fashion accessories. Country
: Sierra Leone
"One change I would like to see in the workplace is more women to believe in their abilities and to own their power. There isn't a shortage of capable women to do a job but I think they are scared to take a seat at the table where decisions are made. That needs to change.'
Guadalupe Esparza Magallanes Garment worker. Part of Colectivo Raíz A.C., an organization that supports female factory workers, mainly in the jean industry. Country:
"I would like true equity in the issues of salaries and workloads, the eradication of harassment by high-level workers, as well as more attention paid to women who are pregnant or have health problems. It's important to share information about labor rights with workers so that they can make their guarantees effective inside and outside the factory.
"I would love to see myself financially comfortable, and hear that my colleagues are totally satisfied with their work and the fruit obtained from it."
Rachel Morford Director of Advocacy for the Society of Women Engineers Country
"We’ve come a long way in the diversity of engineers in the workforce, but there’s still a ways to go before we have gender parity or a fully diverse workforce. One of the things that I’d love to see change in the engineering workplace is an increase in the number of women holding the highest level of technical positions in my industry — technical fellows or distinguished engineers. In general, I’d love to see an increasing number of women receiving the top technical individual awards and recognition in both industry and academia. Women are already achieving the highest levels of technical excellence, and it would be a huge step forward for them to be recognized for it by their employers.
"It’s very much like the public discussion about the entertainment industry awards; just as only one woman has ever received the Oscar for Best Director, there are comparatively few women represented in the top individual STEM awards than there are men. I strongly believe that increased recognition of women engineers in their workplaces, in the form of more women holding the title of 'technical fellow' or 'distinguished engineer' and receiving more individual technical achievement awards would go a long way towards inspiring the next generation pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields."
Samantha Kwok Founder of JingJobs.com, Beijing Women’s Network, Spin Instructor at Gucycle Country
"After starting my company in Beijing at the age of 21, I became acutely aware of how the startup and entrepreneur scene here could sometimes feel quite male-dominated. From attending events with all-male panels and speakers, to sitting at small business owner roundtables and being the one of three women in the room, I started to feel as though I needed some extra support from external sources.
"When I met Jessie (Beijing Women’s Network's founder) for the first time, it immediately inspired me to get more involved and be part of a movement to create a safe space and network for women to meet, share, connect, and grow. Expanding the Beijing Women’s Network has helped me realize that power of sharing, and how the constant support and overload of resources I find from the network have become an encouraging and inspiring way to continue my personal and professional growth. I have heard of women-led professional development chapters grow and develop within some companies internally, but I would love to see more of that in the future. I believe a new generation of internationally-minded professional women armed with the right support groups and networks, will have the tools and courage to empower themselves to be change-makers in today’s world."
Vasumathi President of the Forum for IT Employees Labor Union Country:
"My expectation in the ideal workplace:
1. Allowing female employees to work from home as much as possible.
2. A daycare center in office or close by for babies. Many companies still don't have this facility.
3. Lots of options for stress-busters, like sports, pool, or a place to cherish.
4. A safe environment for women employees."