The ABC was accused of embarking on a “ban on men” back in 2015 when it announced it was taking men off the air of major radio and television programs to replace them with an all-female presenter lineup on International Women’s Day (IWD).
At the time, the ABC described it as an effort to explore “the need for change and equality”, but it received pushback from everyone from Sky News to also us here on Women’s Agenda. The move was branded as “patronising” and “tokenistic”, and called out for promoting the idea that women should be taking on yet more work around IWD.
The ABC has in recent years continued with a lighter version of this initiative, taking the day to dedicate programming and particular panel shows to discussing gender equality.
But back in 2015, it found itself on the defensive. When questioned what male presenters would be doing on March 8 2015, reporters were told they would not be taking the day off, but would rather be required to look at “other tasks”.
Now, what we’re seeing in 2023 is something very different. Some companies are giving all staff the day off for International Women’s Day and even – more controversially – making it a paid leave day for women but not men.
Yesterday, we heard from Hannah Moreno, who runs a public relations company called Third Hemisphere based in Sydney. She described how working in PR, the business is often tasked with writing editorials and pitches to media related to IWD – and she “signed with exhaustion”, noting the exhaustion so many women already feel from sexism in the workplace, the emotional labour of explaining their experiences, and why it matters and then being asked to do yet more work around IWD.
So she said that in 2023, men will be writing the company’s IWD-related editorial, on the topic of how men can step up to address gender equality. “And they can present it to me when it only needs minor edits.”
The women? Hannah declared that they would be taking a paid day off.
Meanwhile, back on IWD in 2022, female health pharmaceutical Organon announced an initiative giving all employees the day off, as paid leave. Not to give women a “break” but rather as an initiative to encourage staff to prioritise their health. They encouraged team members to take the time to consider how they could live healthier lives, including by making appointments and also in terms of supporting the health of women in their lives.
Organon is led by Managing Director Nirelle Tolstosheve in Australia, where it landed in 2021, and has since aimed to promote and evolve leading initiatives and policies to support the needs of team members.
Promoting the day to prioritise your health is one thing, but what’s better is using IWD as a marker point to develop new employee policies to support staff members every day of the year, which Organon has also pushed to do.
Just today, they have announced a raft of new policy initiatives aimed at supporting health and wellbeing. Their new fertility policy will see employees or their partners now able to access up to $3,000 a year for reproductive treatments and procedures. They are also now offering an additional TEN days of leave per calendar year, available to suit individual needs, plus they’ve unveiled six weeks of Pregnancy Loss Leave and extended Compassionate Leave benefits.
And, once again, all Organon team members will be given International Women’s Day off, to promote their health or the health of a loved one.