International Women's Day 2021: inspirational quotes, theme - and why Google is celebrating with a Doodle

International Women’s Day is marked on the same date each year

By Jenna Macfarlane
Monday, 8th March 2021, 9:04 am
Google's Doodle celebrates a series of women's "firsts" throughout history (Google)
Google's Doodle celebrates a series of women's "firsts" throughout history (Google)

Google is celebrating International Women’s Day with a Doodle animation which highlights the “firsts” of women over the centuries.

The powerful illustration pays homage to many of the trailblazers who have paved the way for generations of women across the world today.

Countries all over the globe band together on International Women’s Day to celebrate the achievements of women and campaign for gender equality.

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The international awareness day has been observed since the early 1900s - yet this year the celebrations will be like no other with many events taking place virtually due to the Covid pandemic.

So, what is International Women’s Day, when is it in 2021, what is this year’s theme – and what are some inspirational quotes from powerful women?

Here is everything you need to know.

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International Women's Day has been observed since the early 1900s through protests and strikes (Getty Images)

What does Google’s International Women’s Day Doodle mean?

Google’s 8 March animation explores “a series of firsts in women’s history”.

The search engine said the clip, which depicts women raising their hands, was intended to highlight the “female pioneers who have challenged the status quo and paved the way in education, civil rights science, art and so much more”.

The video, illustrated by Helene Leroux, focuses on the hands that have overcome great obstacles to achieve firsts – from suffragists and academics to gold medallists and entrepreneurs – and “create a lasting legacy”.

"These firsts stand on the shoulders of countless others—women who laid the foundation, in the past, for today’s doors to be finally opened and glass ceilings broken,” Google explained.

Google added that, in the past year, the phrase “the first woman” was searched for across the world more than ever before.

What is International Women’s Day?

First celebrated in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the achievements of women - whether that be social, economic, cultural or political.

It’s also a time for commemorating women who have made history and nodding to those who continue to champion gender equality for future generations.

But perhaps most significantly, the political roots of the day mean strikes and protests are organised to highlight continued inequality across the world.

Despite there being more gender equality than ever before in 2021, the IWD website concludes that there is still “urgent work to do”.

And data from UN Women has revealed that the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality.

Women are doing more domestic chores and family care due to lockdown restrictions, which in turn can impact upon career and education opportunities.

According to the World Economic Forum, “gender parity will not be attained for almost a century”.

It says: “None of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children".

How did the day begin?

The day started with a march that took place in New York City in 1908.

Over 15,000 women took to the streets to campaign for shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

The first National Women’s Day was then celebrated across the US on 28 February 1909.

But the idea to make it an international celebration came from Clara Zetkin, who floated the idea at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910.

There were 100 women in attendance, from 17 countries, who unanimously agreed on her suggestion.

The United Nations started celebrating the day in 1975, and its first ever theme was "Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future" in 1996.

What are the colours of International Women’s Day?

The official colours of International Women’s Day are purple, green and white.

These originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK back in 1908, according to the International Women's Day website.

"Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolizes hope. White represents purity, albeit a controversial concept,” it states.

When is International Women’s Day 2021?

International Women’s Day always falls on 8 March, which this year is a Monday.

Zetkin’s idea for an international awareness day had no fixed date, and there was no formal one until a war-time strike in Russia in 1917.

During the strike, women demanded “bread and peace”, until four days into the protest the Tsar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.

The date when the strike began was 23 February on the Julian calendar which was used in Russia at the time.

In the Gregorian calendar, that was 8 March, which is the date International Women’s Day is celebrated today.

How is it celebrated?

The awareness day is a national holiday in many countries, including in Russia where flower sales double during the days around 8 March.

And in China, many women are given a half day off work as advised by the State Council - although some employers don’t always pass the half day on to female employees.

Meanwhile, in Italy, the day is celebrated by the giving of mimosa blossom. The tradition is thought to have started in Rome following the second world war.

In the US, the entire month of March is Women’s History Month and a presidential proclamation issued each year honours the achievements of American women.

However, this year will look different across the globe due to the pandemic.

More events are expected to take place virtually, including in the UK.

There will also be a virtual event on 8 March run by UN Women, with the theme: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”.

“The pandemic won’t dampen our spirits in the pursuit to connect communities around the world to collaboratively forge positive change for women,” the IWD website reads.

What is the International Women’s Day 2021 theme?

There’s a different theme for International Women’s Day each year to help to raise awareness.

In 2021, that is #ChooseToChallenge, according to the International Women’s Day website.

“We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world,” organisers said.

To show their support for the theme, people can post an image of themselves on social media with their hand raised high to show they choose to challenge and call out inequality.

The images will be shared around the world in the lead up to the day, using the hashtags #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021.

What are International Women’s Day quotes?

Here are some inspirational quotes from famous women:

“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard… We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” – Malala Yousafzai

“When women are held back, our country is held back. When women get ahead, everyone gets ahead.” – Hilary Clinton

“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.” – Serena Williams

“I think every woman in our culture is a feminist. They may refuse to articulate it, but if you were to take any woman back 40 years and say, ‘Is this a world you want to live in?’, they would say ‘No.’” – Dame Helen Mirren

“The best way for us to cultivate fearlessness in our daughters and other young women is by example. If they see their mothers and other women in their lives going forward despite fear, they’ll know it’s possible.” – Gloria Steinem

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made … It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou

“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.” – Michelle Obama

“Women feel like we need permission … We need to lead and change that.” – Emma Watson