International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8, is a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day to celebrate women’s achievements and raise awareness about women’s equality.
The 2023 International Women’s Day theme is #EmbraceEquity. The aim of the theme #EmbraceEquity is to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.
What Do These Words Mean?
Let’s talk about the difference between equity and equality - and why it is important to understand, acknowledge and value this difference.
Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
Look at this video to learn more about Equity and Equality
As part of our Commitment to Diversity, Residence Life embraces, appreciates, and celebrates people of all sexes and gender identities and expressions. We encourage you to learn more about gender parity, gender equity, and women’s issues not only today, but throughout your life, as allyship is a lifelong process of unlearning and re-evaluating your own privilege and power. One component of being an effective ally is educating yourself on the issues of marginalized groups.
Not everyone comes to university with the same experiences or knowledge. Here’s a short overview of five important terms you'll likely hear about during International Women’s Day!
Gender Parity is a statistical measure used to describe ratios of men to women in a population. This could refer to the proportion of men and women in a group (for example, the number of women compared to men in STEM professions), or it can refer to the ratio between an indicator for men and women (for example, how much male CEOs make compared to female CEOs). Gender parity is related, but not identical, to gender equality. Whereas gender parity is purely a descriptive measure, gender equality goes further to involve value judgements and argues for policy changes. Gender parity is an important measure to assess gender equality, which is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, and the state of valuing different behaviours, aspirations, and needs equally, regardless of gender. Gender equality does not require that men and women be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike, but rather that women and men enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities, and protections. Gender bias refers to the tendency to prefer one gender over the other, and it occurs when someone unconsciously attributes certain attitudes and stereotypes to another person or group of people. These ascribed behaviors then affect how the individual understands and engages with others. Sexism is often influenced by gender biases and refers to prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender. Finally, feminism advocates for women's rights by campaigning for gender equality.
Why is International Women’s Day Important?
Regardless of the gender you identify as, or if you do not identify with the gender binary, gender equality benefits everyone. Everyone benefits from challenging gender bias. For example, a woman may face bias when applying for high-level jobs, while a man may face bias when taking a parental leave. Gender inequality has a strong impact on our everyday lives, even if we don’t realize it. Gender equality also helps economies grow, decreases poverty rates, and reduces rates of violence against women. These are just a few reasons why gender equality is so important. We encourage you to reflect on how gender bias and (in)equality has impacted your life, and how you can support gender equality moving forward!
International Women’s Day has been celebrated since the early 1900s – before women even had the right to vote in America and Canada. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City to demand shorter working hours, better pay, and the right to vote.
In 1909, the United States observed the first National Women’s Day at the end of February, which was observed until 1913.
In 1910, Clara Zetkin, leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Part in Germany proposed the idea for an international day to celebrate women and press for their demands.
Following the 1910 conference, the first International Women’s Day was honoured in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. More than one million women and men attended rallies to campaign for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office, and to end discrimination.
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on February 23. Following discussions, International Women’s Day was agreed to be marked annually on March 8, as this translated in the widely adopted Gregorian calendar from February 23. Ever since, March 8 has remained the global date for International Women’s Day.
In 1975, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations.
In the 2000s, support for International Women’s Day was dwindling, and feminism was not a popular topic in many spheres. However, support increased throughout the 2000s with the introduction of the International Women’s Day platform. International Women’s Day is now an official holiday in many countries around the world. While we have not yet reached gender parity and gender equality, we have made great strides over the past century, and we should all work together to ensure an inclusive and accessible future for all.
Fun Facts about International Women’s Day
The official colours of International Women’s Day are purple, green, and white. Purple signifies justice and dignity, green symbolizes hope, and white represents purity (although this is considered a controversial concept). The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK in 1908. International Women’s Day is combined with Mother’s Day in many countries, particularly in Europe. According to the World Economic Forum, gender parity will not be attained for almost a century. Let’s shorten that timeframe by choosing to challenge gender bias and inequality!
Looking to diversify your Instagram feed? Here are some accounts that talk about feminism, gender, sexuality and more, with an emphasis on intersectionality.
@feminist (Instagram’s most followed feminist account)
@feministvoice (advocates for equality and creates fun feminist merchandise)
@feministfightclub (based on the best-selling novel and highlights gender issues in the workplace)
@feministhood (advocates for equality, with an emphasis on intersectionality and anti-racism)
@feminist.herstory (showcases well-known, and lesser-known women who have made history)
@angryasianfeminist (has a very thorough list of anti-racism resources in the biography)
@the_indian_feminist (advocates for equality, with a focus on South Asian women)
@feministpress (highlights feminist literature from around the world)
@feministartmuseum (showcases art from women and non-binary individuals around the world)
Don't have enough time for a full movie? Check out one of these short YouTube videos to learn more about International Women’s Day and gender equality. They’re all under 20 minutes, so they make for a great study break!
The History of International Women’s Day provides an overview of the history of International Women’s Day, and how it is celebrated around the world.
Anne Hathaway’s International Women’s Day Speech advocates for gender equality and highlights some unique issues that women and men face. If you’re looking for more speeches, check out Michelle Obama’s or Oprah’s as well.
There are several TED Talks that cover feminism and gender equality. With a variety of speakers from different genders and backgrounds, we’re sure you’ll find an interesting video on this list!
Talks on Modern Feminism
Feminists: What Were They Thinking? (2018) (Netflix)
This documentary film, directed by Johanna Demetrakas, interviews women of different ages and backgrounds about feminism. The film was inspired by Cynthia MacAdams’ 1977 book of portraits called ‘Emergence’ which captured women embracing feminism by shedding cultural restrictions. The documentary revisits those photos and women and contains interviews with women such as Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Topics discussed include identity, abortion, race, childhood, and motherhood. (Trailer)
He Named Me Malala (2015) (Prime Video)
He Named Me Malala is an American documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim. The film presents Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani female activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has spoken out for the rights of girls, especially the right to education, since she was very young. The film recounts how she survived, and has become even more eloquent in her quest, after being shot by a Taliban gunman as part of the organization’s violent opposition to girls’ education. (Trailer)
Suffragette (2015) (YouTube)
Suffragette is a British historical drama about women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom, directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan. The film includes many familiar names, such as Helena Bonham Carter and Maryl Streep. Seen through the eyes of working-class factory worker Maud, newly recruited to the movement despite her husband's disapproval, she is drawn into the underground workings of the organization as it develops more radical means of protest. Mirrored by government pressure on police to increase surveillance and punishment of the Suffragettes, Maud's faith in the movement is tested to the limits. This is a breathtaking fictionalization of true events that changed the course of history, raising issues that continue to resonate with today's audiences, not least around gender, class and the power of protest. (Trailer)
Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen (2020) (Netflix)
Disclosure is an unprecedented, eye-opening look at transgender depictions in film and television, revealing how Hollywood simultaneously reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender. Through discussions with trans thinkers and creatives, including Laverne Cox and Chaz Bono, a fascinating story of the dynamic interplay between trans representation on screen, society’s beliefs, and the reality of trans lives emerges. This documentary invites viewers to confront unexamined assumptions and provokes a revolution in how we see and understand trans people. (Trailer)
On the Basis of Sex (2018) (Amazon Prime)
This American biographical legal drama is based on the life and early cases of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The movie follows her struggles for equal rights, and the history of her historic career. (Trailer)
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker (2020) (Netflix)
The Self Made miniseries is a fictionalized depiction of Madam C. J. Walker’s journey. As a Black hair care pioneer and mogul, Walker overcame the hostilities of turn-of-the-century America, epic rivalries, and tumultuous marriages to become America’s first Black, self-made female millionaire. (Trailer)
Unbelieveable (2019) (Netflix)
Unbelievable, an American true crime miniseries, is about a series of sexual assaults in Washington State and Colorado. This critically acclaimed series follows a teenager who was charged with lying about having been sexually assaulted, and the two detectives who followed a twisting path to arrive at the truth. This impactful series highlights the barriers keeping women from the justice, and the justice system, that they deserve. (Trailer)
Broad City (2014) (Crave, Amazon Prime)
This American sitcom, created by and starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, is based on the pair’s real-life friendship, and their attempt to “make it” in New York. This critically acclaimed show has been ranked among the best television shows of the 2010s. It will make you laugh, and think about the complexity of female identity and friendship! (Trailer)
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) (Amazon Prime)
The Handmaid’s Tale, based off Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, is a dystopian television series set after the Second American Civil War. In the show, a totalitarian society subjects fertile women to child-bearing slavery. As the lead character attempts to escape her new reality, it sheds light on gender inequality in the real world as well. (Trailer)
Mrs. America (2020) (Amazon Prime)
This historical drama miniseries details the political movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and the unexpected backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s. It features several well-known names, including Elizabeth Banks, Uzo Aduba, and Sarah Paulson. Through the eyes of Schlafly and second-wave feminists, the series explores how one of the toughest battlegrounds in the culture wars of the 70s helped give rise to the Moral Majority and forever shifted the political landscape. (Trailer)
There are so many amazing books, non-fiction and fiction alike, that have been written by women and non-binary individuals. The following books are just some of the featured International Women’s Day books available at The Bookstore. Today, set aside the textbook for a few minutes, and pick up a great read!
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
“In her most revealing and powerful memoir yet, the beloved activist, speaker, and bestselling author of Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet the expectations of the world, and start trusting the voice deep within us. Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get.”
Available at The Bookstore
Becoming by Michelle Obama
“In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”
Detransation, Baby by Torrey Peters
“A whipsmart debut about three women--transgender and cisgender--whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.”
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“With humor and levity, Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often-masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.”
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
“Today's feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?”
The Women’s Suffrage Movement by Sally Roesch Wagner
“Comprised of historical texts spanning two centuries, The Women's Suffrage Movement is a comprehensive and singular volume with a distinctive focus on incorporating race, class, and gender, and illuminating minority voices. This one-of-a-kind intersectional anthology features the writings of the most well-known suffragists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, alongside accounts of those often overlooked because of their race, from Native American women to African American suffragists like Ida B. Wells and the three Forten sisters.”
The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara
“In a unique reformulation of history and literary tradition, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, with humor and sophistication, re-writes Martín Fierro from a feminist, LGBT, postcolonial point of view. She creates a hilarious novel that is nevertheless incisive in its criticism of the way societies come into being, and the way they venerate mythical heroes.”
No More Nice Girls: Gender, Power, and Why It’s Time to Stop Playing by the Rules by Lauren McKeon
“A ground-breaking, insightful book about women and power from award-winning journalist Lauren McKeon, which shows how women are disrupting the standard (very male) vision of power, ditching convention, and building a more equitable world for everyone.”
Women’s History of the Modern World: How Radicals, Rebels, and Everywomen Revolutionized the Last 200 Years by Rosalind Miles
“The internationally bestselling author of Who Cooked the Last Supper? presents a wickedly witty and very current history of the extraordinary female rebels, reactionaries, and trailblazers who left their mark on history from the French Revolution up to the present day.”
Consent: A Memoir by Vanessa Springora
“Already an international literary sensation, an intimate and powerful memoir of a young French teenage girl’s relationship with a famous, much older male writer—a universal #MeToo story of power, manipulation, trauma, recovery, and resiliency that exposes the hypocrisy of a culture that has allowed the sexual abuse of minors to occur unchecked.”
Secret Feminist Agenda
The Secret Feminist Agenda podcast is a weekly podcast about the insidious, nefarious, insurgent, and mundane ways we enact our feminism in our daily lives. Through interviews with feminists, a variety of topics are explored, such as witchcraft, mental health, and social media. Plus, it’s Canadian!
Alright, Now What?
This podcast, produced by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, is all about systemic change and the journey towards gender justice. Each season covers a different topic, such as fundraising, feminist activism, the impact of COVID-19 on women, and gender-based violence.
Women Fight Back!
Women Fight Back is a program that amplifies the voices of the burgeoning fighting women’s movement in the era of Trump and amid an intensifying war on women. The podcast features weekly discussions with grassroots activists on current issues facing women from a socialist women’s perspective. The activists and organizers featured are from a range of different movements. Topics include: the role of women in the anti-war movement, women in labor, anti-racism in the women’s movement, the struggle for LGBTQ+ liberation, and more!
Deviant Women explores the stories of “deviant” women from history, film, mythology, and the contemporary world. You’ll learn about a variety of women who weren’t afraid to break the rules, subvert the system, or challenge the status quo. Some notable names include Mary Shelley, Medea, and Marsha P. Johnson.
Women at Work
Three women from Harvard Business Review created this podcast to help women prepare to deal with gender discrimination in the workplace. They interview experts on gender, tell stories about their own experiences, and give practical advice to help other women succeed in face of obstacles. Topics include diversity in the workplace, self-care, and how to lead in the workplace. Although this podcast is geared more towards women already in the workforce, there are many transferrable lessons for students as well! Plus, it’s never a bad idea to get a head start on your personal and professional development.
The Women in Parenthesis Podcast
The Women in Parenthesis Podcast explores the philosophical writings of four major female philosophers of the 20th Century – Mary Midgley, Iris Murdoch, Philippa Foot, and Elizabeth Anscombe. The episodes explore various themes from their work, often through scholars who study these women. All the episodes are under 10 minutes long; learn something new on your next walk to campus!
The Secret Lives of Black Women
This podcast follows two close friends on their hunt for the “secrets” that have helped Black women flourish over the years. They connect with guests over shared experiences of topics such as sex, self-care, rage, and anxiety. Each conversation centers on creating a space of joy, while asking “how do the Black women we admire stay incredibly phenomenal?”
The Feminist Present
This newly created podcast is the first podcast from the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. A wide range of feminists from academia, journalism, activism, and more talk about a variety of intersectional topics related to feminism.
The Gender Equality Network
The Gender Equality Network (GEN) is funded by Western’s University Students’ Council. The network provides resources, safe spaces, and advocates on gender issues. GEN educates Western’s campus on issues of gender equality and gender diversity through events, speaker series, conferences, and collaborative initiatives with campus and community partners. Through an intersectional and feminist lens, GEN recognizes issues of gender equality and diversity as important areas of discussion.
The Gender Equality Network aims to provide intersectional and diverse programming, encourage inclusive conversations on issues of gender equality and diversity, bring awareness to local organizations and charities that have feminist objectives, create accessible programming that responds to cultural and societal events, and engage Western students in issues and topics they might not have been previously aware of. (More Information) (Facebook Page)
Western Women in Leadership Club
The Western Women in Leadership Club seeks to motivate women at Western to embrace leadership roles and pursue success. The club provides seminars, socials, fundraisers, and opportunities for women to construct a broad network while expanding their knowledge of different career opportunities. (Facebook Page)
Women in STEM Club
Women in STEM is an all-inclusive organization which offers a safe and encouraging environment for people of all genders and academic backgrounds to explore their interests in STEM. By providing members with overarching opportunities and resources in all four disciplines of STEM, they aim to equip members with the skills required to succeed in their personal and professional endeavors. Throughout the year they host a variety of events, workshops, and socials. (Facebook Page)
Women in Fitness Club
Women in Fitness is an organization for students who identify as women who have a passion for physical fitness and healthy eating. The goal of Women in Fitness is to motivate, educate, and encourage its members in their fitness journey to be the healthiest they can be through exercise, food, and community. The club hosts group fitness activities and speaker sessions to create a community of friends who ask questions, share recipes and nutrition knowledge, encourage exercise, and support each other. (Facebook Page)
Empower seeks to remove barriers from underprivileged women in the London community, such as women who have experienced abuse, single mothers, and women experiencing homelessness. This club aims to bring awareness to the challenges faced by women in these situations and give students the opportunity to directly engage with these women. Through the support of students, they hope to show women that they can overcome these challenges and move forward. (Facebook Page)
The Gender Studies Student Collective
The Gender Studies Student Collective is committed to making the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies the best it can be and demonstrating all the fantastic modules, courses, and people that make up the department. Whether you are completing a degree, or just taking a Women’s Studies class for fun, the Collective is here to support you and make sure you get the most out of your time within the department. (Facebook Page)
Human Rights Office
Western University's Human Rights Office provides information on the University’s discrimination and harassment policies, employment equity and diversity, and other human rights related issues. This office is dedicated to making Western an equitable, safe, and supportive environment for all members of the Western community. Any member of the Western community may access support and disclose instances of discrimination and/or harassment. (More Information)
The Learning Network
The Learning Network is a valuable source of evidence-informed resources for individuals, service providers, and organizations working to end violence against women and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). They provide a large database of articles and resources from Western and across Ontario, as well as a series of webinars. (More Information)
Coalition to Empower Gender Equality
The Coalition to Empower Gender Equality (CEGE) is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that works to empower all genders to achieve gender justice in our society. They provide a connection for individuals, organizations, businesses, and government to discuss issues of inequality and create solutions. CEGE provides a training ground for developing gender equality in a safe and supportive environment, which enables members to build skills, networks, and create an equal society free from discrimination. (Website)
Anova provides safe places, shelter, support, counselling, and resources for abused women, their children, and all oppressed individuals to find a new start. They work to create change to eliminate patriarchal patterns that result in gender-based sexual violence and inequality. Anova also provides volunteer opportunities for those looking to get involved with the organization and give back to the London community. (Website)
BPW London is a local chapter of BPW Canada; the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women. BPW develops the business, professional and leadership potential of women on all levels through advocacy, education, mentoring, networking, skill-building, and economic empowerment programs and projects around the world. (Website)
Canadian Women’s Foundation
The Canadian Women’s Foundation is Canada’s public foundation for diverse women and girls. They aim to be inclusive of individuals across gender and sexuality spectrums, and focus their efforts on supporting those who face the most barriers and have the least access to relevant services. They fund programs across Canada, addressing four urgent issues: gender-based violence, economic security, girls’ empowerment, and inclusive leadership. They also work to improve systems, policies, and practices to build equity. (Website)
Western offers a wide variety of courses that you may wish to take if you are interested in learning more about women’s issues and advocacy. The following courses are geared toward the themes of International Women’s Day – women's equality and gender parity. However, there are many other types of courses offered. From sexuality, to film, to theory, to fashion, there’s a course for almost everyone!
WS 1020E: Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies
This course explores topics such as: challenges to the sex- and gender-binary, intersectionality and solidarity across multiple identities, constructions of masculinities and femininities, the operation of state power on gender and sexual minorities, colonialism and Indigenous resistances, activism and protest, and more! Topics are discussed through a variety of relevant conversations, including racism on dating apps, rape culture, and boy bands. (Previous Course Outline)
WS 1022G: Gender, Justice, and Change
The 21st Century is a period of accelerating change focused on issues of gender, justice, and activism. This interdisciplinary course highlights the ways in which movements for justice and change are informed by gender issues in struggles for topics like social justice, education, and human rights. A variety of case studies and examples are used to highlight the ways in which women and other marginalized groups organize change, resist oppression, and theorize the concept of “justice.” (Previous Course Outline)
WS 1024F: Introduction to Equity, Diversity, and Human Rights
This course introduces theory and practice in the fields of equity, diversity, and human rights. The course addresses how policies and practices response to social difference and relations of power. Disciplines covered include anti-racism, feminism and gender studies, sexuality, disability, education, and legal studies. Case studies that highlight contemporary debates on topics such as multiculturalism, the rights of ‘minoritized’ groups, and the politics of affirmative action are used to answer questions around human rights. (Previous Course Outline)
WS 2240F: Foundation of Feminist Thought
Interested in learning about the history of feminism? This course covers foundational readings in the history of feminist thought from early feminists’ calls for women's equality and rights to postmodern understandings of gender. The course will consider how feminist thought has emerged, developed and evolved in response to various historical, intellectual, social, political and cultural challenges. (Previous Course Outline)
WS 2270B: Women, Law, and Social Change
This course introduces various areas of law which affect women in specific ways, such as sex discrimination, gender-based violence, inheritance, and prostitution. These areas of law are explored through contemporary debates, and law is explored as a strategy for bringing about social change. (New Course Outline)
For a full list of Women’s Studies courses, visit the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies site