As the UK’s largest women’s organisation, we are there for, and led by, women everyday – not just on International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March this year, and as the UK’s biggest women’s organisation, UNISON takes it seriously.

Women have always been central to trade unions and the fight for a more equal society.

On International Women’s Day (IWD), and every other day, we celebrate the incredible contributions of women in the workforce and the invaluable role they play in building a fairer world. We stand in solidarity with all working women and will continue to fight for gender equality in the workplace.

We’ll work together for a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Embrace Equity”. The aim of the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme 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.

IWD is raising awareness that we can all truly embrace equity and it is not just something we say or write about and instead it is something we need to think about, know, value, and embrace where each one of us can actively support and embrace equity within our own sphere of influence.

The words equity and equality are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between equity and equality – it is important to understand, acknowledge and value the difference. Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources of opportunities. Whereas, Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

Find out more about the history of women in trade unions

Watch our video celebrating IWD 2023 

Take action

IWD are asking people to “strike” the #EmbraceEquity pose to show solidarity and share your #EmbraceEquity image across social media using the hashtags #IWD2023 #EmbraceEquity to encourage others to help forge an inclusive world.

Tag @UNISONSE in your #EmbraceEquity pose and we’ll share your picture online too.

We’re also keen to hear what you’re up to in your branches, so branches can drop us a line too.

Embrace Equity pose


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History of IWD

International Women’s Day has been observed since in the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.

In the early 1900’s there was great unrest and critical debate amongst women after women’s oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change from the mid-eighteen hundreds. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1909, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February and women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.

It was in 1910, during the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, when a woman named Clara Zetkin, the Leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. This was unanimously approved with the first IWD taking place on 19 March 1911. Less than a week later, on 25 March, the tragic “Triangle Fire” in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States, which became a focus of subsequent IWD events.

On the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first IWD on the last Sunday in February 1913. Following discussions, IWD was transferred to 8 March and this date has remained the global date for IWD ever since. In 1914, further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express solidarity. On the last Sunday of February in 1917, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. This was opposed by political leaders, but the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. Their strike commenced on the 23rd February on the Julian calendar which is the 8th March on the Gregorian Calendar.

The International Women’s Day has continued to grow as a global day of recognition and celebration with the United Nations holding an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes and the UN designating 1975 as “International Women’s Year”. IWD is now an official holiday in many countries such as Afghanistan, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine and Zambia with the tradition seeing men honouring the women in their life with flowers and small gifts.

The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Whilst there are more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased number of women as impressive role models in every aspect of life, the unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and violence against women is a global problem.

This is why International Women’s Day is still so important and we should make every day International Women’s Day to do your bit to ensure that the future for girls around the world is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

Dates for your diary

The Oxford International Women’s Festival has two weeks of events around Oxford celebrating women’s strengths, successes & solidarity during Saturday 25 February – Sunday 12 March 2023. Find out more here:

TUC – Webinar on Creating menopause friendly spaces at work. Thursday 16 Mar 2023 – 14:00 to 15:00. Sign up and more details:

TUC – An introduction to the role of health and safety rep for women. Thursday 23 Mar 2023 – 10:00 to 15:00. Sign up and more details: