Gender Jaundice: Pink Washing of IWD

by Mar 2, 2023

Pink Washing of IWD


I’ve been pretty open about being jaundiced and underwhelmed by this year’s theme of self-hugging selfies for #IWD. I have said publicly that 3Plus won’t be going down that path. There seemed to be a focus on flogging purple merch and the pinkwashing IWD, instead of what should be a theme of concrete actions to advance the position of women.

Apparently, I’ve been atypically slow to catch on.

Thanks to Australian Project F,  I learned that when you Google ‘International Woman’s Day’, the top search result is not the official UN Women landing page. What you do find is, which hits the number one page ranking slot. This is a site run by a privately held company named Aurora Ventures.

This website has no affiliation with the UN Women’s IWD. It is in fact a PR and advertising company.

This would account for why I felt from the outset that more than ever this year’s theme was a global PR stunt. That was because… it actually was.


What companies can do to avoid pink washing IWD

So what can your company do to avoid pink washing IWD

  • Avoid commodifying or exploiting the women’s rights movement by resisting the temptation to feminise your branding, whether in the use of colours, and/or images. Instead, showcase a demonstrated and serious commitment to advancing women’s rights.  In the next week, the airwaves will be awash with pink images, self-hugging selfies.
  • If you are hosting an event, pay your speakers. This should be against a backdrop of equal pay for equal work.
  • Ensure your events are diverse with a whole range of women participants.
  • Amplify women’s voices: use your corporate voice to amplify the voices of your female employees who have made significant contributions in their roles.

pink washing IWD

  • Sponsor women for senior roles in your organisation.
  • Involve men. When men participate in IWD to support gender equality, they contribute to building a more inclusive and equitable society for all. Promoting strategies around allyship to shift damaging cultural attitudes, stereotypes and behaviours will accelerate gender inequality which holds both men and women back.
  • Support women-owned businesses: Companies can support women-owned businesses by purchasing goods and services from them, partnering with them on projects, and promoting their businesses through marketing and social media channels.
  • Donate to women’s organisations: Companies can donate to organizations that support women’s rights and empowerment, such as organisations that provide education and job training for women, support targets of gender-based violence, and advocate for women’s rights and equality.

Reality check

And don’t forget that while these high-profile corporate bashes are being held, contributing to the pink-washing of IWD, women are still experiencing:

  • unequal pay  (About 20% pay gap – probably more incertains sectors)
  • reduced access to senior jobs  (24% of CEOs in SMEs, 7% in FTSE 500)
  • sexism (100%)
  • sexual harassment (Over 40%)
  • bullying (60% of bullies target women)
  • gaslighting (74%  domestically)
  • gender violence  (1 in 3 women)
  • ……..and worse. (45000 deaths globally in 2021)

Take a look at the lived experience of one 19-year-old young woman who decided to express herself through this image. Some messages were personally experienced, some she heard from friends, and others were publicly shared.

Want to combat sexual harassment in your organisation contact 3Plus NOW



Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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