Celebrating International Women’s Day

A Black woman with Afro hair wearing a denim jacket is smiling widely and holding a banner that says 'WOMEN' in a busy street

The 8th March is International Women’s Day, which provides an excellent platform for schools to explore gender equality and actively champion and celebrate women.

The seeds for International Women’s Day (IWD) were planted in 1908 and it was officially established in 1910 when Clara Zetkin, a communist activist and proud advocate for women’s rights, suggested an official international day to celebrate women at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. It was accepted by 17 countries then, and today is celebrated all over the world.

For IWD, we wanted to share some useful resources and activity ideas to help you celebrate equality on International Women’s Day and throughout the year.

Activities and assemblies: host a celebration of women from across the school or your local community.

Start close to home, both primary and secondary schools can plan a whole school celebration of women within their school and local communities. This is also a wonderful way to involve parents/carers and families in the schools and share the fantastic work that is being done.

Each department can consider activities relevant to their subject. For example, the Maths department could celebrate women mathematicians by highlighting their achievements throughout history. The STEM departments could work together to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM. Similarly, the Humanities departments may work together to create a timeline of female historians, philosophers, and scholars.

The school could host a movie-morning or afternoon, or individual teachers may wish to use lesson time to share films that celebrate the achievements of women. For instance, the film Hidden Figures highlights the excellent achievements of the African-American women whose maths skills helped a US astronaut be put into orbit in the 1960s.

Finally, whilst these ideas all have merit, auditing the curriculum to look at how women are represented in all subject areas, identifying the gaps and looking how the school can ensure better representation, is the best way to ensure that this work is embedded moving forward.

Encourage pupils to research and consider non-stereotypical careers.

Encouraging young people to challenge gender stereotypes and consider non-stereotypical careers should start from the very early stages in a child’s education.

Films, documentaries, and story books can also be used to challenge gender stereotypes. At EqualiTeach we use this excellent and powerful video by MullenLowe London in training sessions to highlight the impact of gender stereotypes on children in primary school. The video demonstrates how primary aged children categorise career opportunities for men and women. For example, when asked to draw a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot, 61 pictures were drawn of men and only 5 were female. The same children are then paid a visit by a woman firefighter, surgeon and fighter pilot and their reactions tell us quite a lot about how gender stereotypes are woven into society!

For secondary aged pupils, it is important to showcase women in careers that are considered ‘non-traditional’ from the moment they start their secondary education. This can be done through lesson activities, or by ensuring trips and extra-curricular activities cover exposure to women in many different roles.

Invite speakers from diverse backgrounds – and remember to be inclusive of different identities!

Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality, this TED Talk . It is important to remember that we all have lots of different parts to our identities, none of us is just one thing. Therefore, when it comes to thinking of inviting women to deliver talks to your students, it is vital to ensure speakers are invited from a variety of different backgrounds. Consider race, religion, and disability amongst other relevant protected characteristics.

We are surrounded by many inspirational women from all walks of life, think of people such as Mishal Hussain – a British Muslim woman journalist, Jo Shien Ng – a scientist from the University of Sheffield, Yasmin Finney – a trans actress, most famous for her appearance in Heartstopper, or Dianne Abbott – the first Black woman elected to Parliament and is the longest-serving Black MP in the Houses of Parliament.

Not everyone can invite well-known people like the ones mentioned above, but schools are surrounded by a community of diverse and inspirational local women who can come to deliver talks about their lives to students.

Educate young people about inspirational women throughout British history. Including the not-so-famous ones!

An activity that can be used across all key stages is to create a timeline of key events throughout British history where women have accomplished new heights or broken the glass ceiling. Print out images of women (make sure they are from lots of different backgrounds) with their name, their achievement, and the year. Then have a timeline running around the room or hall and get students to work through the timeline. For larger groups of students, it might help to organise students into groups of 3-4, give each group a few years or a different decade to work with and let them discover the fantastic work that many women in British history have accomplished. I took part in a similar activity with the National Education Union a few years ago, it was inspiring to see the achievements of women from different backgrounds – so an activity to use with staff too! Key figures to include in this activity are Professor Nola Ishmael OBE, who came to Britain from Barbados in 1963 as a young NHS trainee nurse and rose up the ranks to become the first Black Director of Nursing in London. Dame Karlene Davis MBE, the Former General Secretary of the College of Midwives. She was born and raised in Jamaica and emigrated to the UK in 1967. She was the UK’s first Black female trade union leader. Finally, Jayaben Desai, who lead the infamous groups of ‘strikers in sari’s’ after she walked out for experiencing unfair dismissal for refusing to work overtime in sweltering and dangerous garment factory conditions in London in 1976.

We hope this has inspired you. Below are some useful resources to help:

List of resources related to IWD:


Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, by Kate Pankhurst

The Greatest Women in History: The remarkable women who changed our world, by Catherine Curran

Hood Feminism, by Mikki Kendall

Taking up Space, by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi

Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernadine Evaristo

Of Women and Salt, by Gabriela Garcia

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozzi Adichie (key to understand intersectionality)

The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis

Charred, a collection of poems, by Andreena Leeanne

Playing Big, by Tara Mohr

The Emotional Load, by cartoonist Emma


Mulan (2020)

Rocks (2019)

Little Women (2019)

Hidden Figures (2016)

Queen of Katwe (2016)

Queen (2013)

Whale Rider (2003)

Erin Brockovich (2000)


I am Greta (2020)

The Morning Show (2019) – To understand a pervasive culture of sexual harassment and gender inequality

Seeing Allred (2018)

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (2016)

Gloria: In Her Own Words (2011)


OUTSIDE THE BOX  – A whole-school approach to promoting gender equality and tackling sexism and sexual harassment

International Women’s Day Resources (internationalwomensday.com)

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