While International Women’s day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 across the globe, it is important to reflect on how it came to be recognized. It has been a United Nations (UN) recognized holiday since 1977, but the first gathering of IWD took place in 1911. This global day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, with a call to action to: educate and raise awareness about women’s equality; advocate for positive change for the advancement of women; lobby for accelerated gender parity; and celebrate the women in our lives and their sacrifices.

The idea of IWD grew out of early 20th century activism by North American and European women who were living in a time of rapid expansion and unrest in the industrialized world. It took root in 1909 as National Women’ Day in the US and in 1910 at an international conference, German women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin proposed an international day to celebrate women so they could further their demands for equal rights. IWD was approved by 17 countries, with the first celebration held in 1911. In 1975, the UN officially recognised IWD and by 1977, declared March 8 as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.

In 2001, to accelerate the call for gender parity, the IWD website was launched in a pre-social media world as a vehicle for collective action. Gradually global awareness gathered support, and by 2014, IWD was celebrated in more than 100 countries. The active participation of the UN and World Economic Forum — gender equality is central to UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG5 calls for the world to “achieve gender parity and empower all women and girls by 2030”) –further strengthened the global movement for women’s rights.

The 2024 IWD theme #InspireInclusion (the overarching theme is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”) underlines the importance of empowering women and promoting gender parity. WIFA believes that by collectively investing in women we can advance change and achieve a more equal world. WIFA would be interested in your ideas on how we can #InspireInclusion within the financial industry and beyond – not only on March 8 but all year long.


Bonnie Ohri