Monday, March 25, 2024

Inspiring Inclusion at the 2024 International Women’s Day Event

Earlier this month, the Virginia Council of CEOs, in partnership with Robins School of Business Graduate Programs, hosted the sixth annual International Women’s Day event, my second in attendance. The atmosphere of this event was special. Each guest was greeted with warmth and a flood of compliments as they walked through the door, creating a sense of welcome and inclusion. It is a space where we embrace and celebrate our womanhood, leaving behind any feelings of otherness at the door.

International Women’s Day, more commonly recognized as March 8th in the Bosnian culture of my family, holds a profound significance for me as a day where I pay homage to the remarkable women who played pivotal roles in shaping my life and nurturing me. While similar to the sentiment of Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, its cultural importance runs even deeper, evoking a sense of heritage and collective empowerment symbolized by a bouquet of roses. Witnessing the radiance on the faces of my grandmother, aunts, and above all, my mother as they open the door to find my token of appreciation awaiting them brings me immense joy. My little tradition of purchasing and delivering flowers has made March 8th my favorite holiday.

Observing IWD within the context of the event for the past two years has brought to mind an interesting cultural juxtaposition. The holiday surged in popularity across communist nations in the wake of several revolutions to showcase women’s pivotal roles as both creators and pillars of society in the fight for peace. Historically and presently, women outside of the United States are typically not celebrated for their positions as business leaders in male dominated spaces, the majority of whom continue to face significant barriers to even obtain the same opportunities as American women. Our annual event provides me with a new perspective, despite the culture shock: the multitudes of women in the workplace, like our guests, dynamically shape our communities in ways that were not possible before. Culture is strengthened and diversified as our reach expands. 

We have made incredible progress in the improvement of women’s rights, all of which are quickly overshadowed by constant reminders of that progress being undone. Women are suffering from poverty, war, and famine globally and domestically; our reproductive rights are threatened; and we are still not held as equals in either work or home.

This year’s keynote speaker Maria Tedesco, President of Atlantic Union Bank, posed the important question: “How are you lifting up others?” It is imperative that we ask ourselves this in order to support our communities and nurture others, be it through making space for diverse perspectives in the workplace, participating in mutual aid networks, or simply giving a compliment. 

Aida Pehlic, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at VA Council of CEOs, contributed this post.

Posted by Aida Pehlic at 3:07 pm

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