Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once said: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

On 8 March, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated globally to highlight and honour the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and as a call to action for gender equality. The first IWD was run by the Suffragettes in 1911, but today it belongs to all groups collectively everywhere and is not country, group or organisation specific.

To mark the occasion this year, The CEO Magazine spoke with women in leadership about what can be done to encourage the next generation of girls to become leaders and why gender diversity is so important for business.

The power of female role models

Nicola Mendelsohn, Vice-President EMEA of Facebook, England

“Through Facebook research, we found that many would-be female entrepreneurs said having a relatable role model would inspire them to start a business. In response, in November 2017, we launched a campaign in the UK to champion relatable women who are running amazing businesses. By telling their stories, we hope to inspire others to gain the confidence to start their own business journeys.
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Nicola Mendelsohn, Vice-President EMEA of Facebook, England

The fight for workplace equality: Men have an important role to play

Jo Burston, Founder and CEO of Inspiring Rare Birds, Australia

“We need to always involve men in the conversation on female leadership because if we only talk to each other about the same issue, it won’t reach the ears of the people who need to hear it and that’s all the great guys who want to support women as business leaders of the future and help that next generation.”
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Jo Burston, Founder and CEO of Inspiring Rare Birds, Australia

Female friendly workplaces help companies gain greater access to productivity and resources

Jane Sun, CEO of Ctrip, China

“Companies need to design positive conditions for women to operate and thrive. If you have this in mind, the corporate culture follows. At Ctrip we pay a lot of attention to identifying where female staff are in the company pipeline, and make sure we have policies that fully support them.”
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Jane Sun, CEO of Ctrip, China

Standing up for gender parity with a loud voice

Pip Marlow, CEO Customer Marketplace of Suncorp, Australia

“To pave the way for the next generation of female business leaders, we need to show them that inclusion comes from the top. As leaders, we have a key role in helping people break out and get to the next level. We need to stand up for our teams and provide them with new opportunities.”
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Pip Marlow, CEO Customer Marketplace of Suncorp, Australia

Helping women navigate the tech landscape

Nabilah Alsagoff, Co-Founder and COO of DOKU, Indonesia

“Recruiting women in the tech industry is difficult because it’s a male-dominated workforce, and not many Indonesian women have been trained beyond a certain level when it comes to engineering, for example. We’re nurturing a few female employees in our company to step up, but we’re also working with schools and universities to help them better emphasise the importance of technology in their curriculum.”

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Nabilah Alsagoff, Co-Founder and COO of DOKU, Indonesia

Breaking barriers for gender parity to pave a smooth path for female leaders

Stéphanie Hospital, Co-Founder of OneRagtime and former Executive Vice-President of Orange, France

“Diversity and gender parity are key to smooth the path for future female leaders. It’s important for women to have role models, living examples who prove that women can lead and thrive. Our education system is the biggest stumbling block to gender diversity.”

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Stéphanie Hospital, Co-Founder of OneRagtime and former Executive Vice-President of Orange, France

Developing women’s confidence could help to narrow the gender imbalance in executive positions

Magdalena Kosior-Molloy, CFO of Holman Webb Lawyers, Australia

“A lot of the time, the problem is women don’t put themselves forward for promotion. I often see women who think they have to know 80% of a new job before they can apply. They think they’re not good enough or skilled enough, whereas men will put themselves forward knowing only about 40%.”
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Magdalena Kosior-Molloy, CFO of Holman Webb Lawyers, Australia

Getting the position you deserve: Women shouldn’t shy away

Lena Apler, Founder and Chairman of Collector Bank, Sweden

“To pave the way for the next generation of female business leaders, we need to convince women that they are as good as men and should demand equal space. Don’t be quiet or too humble, believe in yourself; you are good enough and should go for the positions you deserve. Always remember how many men of average talent have reached good positions.”
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Lena Apler, Founder and Chairman of Collector Bank, Sweden

Workplace flexibility needs to be considered as a way to get more women into leadership roles

Monette Iturralde-Hamlin, Founder and President of TeamAsia, Philippines

“In the Philippines overall there are a lot of opportunities for women to get to the top, i.e. there are more women on boards compared with other countries. But there’s also a social role they are born into. Filipino women are told they should be good housewives while remaining in the background. I grew up in a household with strong women and I was never told I couldn’t do anything that a man could do.”
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Monette Iturralde-Hamlin, Founder and President of TeamAsia, Philippines

How to get more women into leadership positions: Mindset is key

Divine Ndhlukula, Founder and Managing Director of SECURICO, Zimbabwe

“The hurdle, first and foremost, is mindset. For women in particular there is a lack of self-esteem because of how we have been socialised. In my part of the world, we were raised to think that as a woman you’ll get married and make children for the clan. We were socialised to think that we should not dream about becoming high-flying businesswomen or politicians. But in our minds, we must believe we can do these things. Belief in oneself – that comes at the top.”
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Divine Ndhlukula, Founder and Managing Director of SECURICO, Zimbabwe

Want to see what others are saying about the fight for equal women’s rights? To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March we’ve rounded up some of our favourite quotes.