International Women's Day 2019

February 15, 2019

We are proud be part of a growing international movement of advocacy and support for women. We recognize the achievements – and honour the struggles – of all women on International Women’s Day.

In the early 1900s, oppression and inequality were pushing women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. At the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910, Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day to press for change. The conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties and working women’s clubs, adopted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and International Women's Day was born.

This year’s international theme, #BalanceforBetter calls on us all to work towards a more gender-balanced world. "The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage...Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive."

In Canada, International Women's Day 2019 seeks to use innovation and technology to empower women and girls as we strive for a more equal world. The theme #InnovateForChange is a call to action to remove barriers facing women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) so we can "unleash new ideas and solutions that will transform our society and strengthen our economy." In Canada, only a third of graduates in STEM are women, despite the fact that we face major job shortages in many STEM fields. When women are held back from filling high-quality jobs like these, Canada’s economy is also held back."

Nurses and health-care workers are leading the way and tackling women’s issues head on, whether they are fighting for pay equity with their male colleagues, or trying to end violence and harassment in the workplace. Their knowledge, compassion and determination make them fierce advocates for their patients and clients, as well as strong role models for all girls and women.


We encourage ONA members, family and friends to join us in celebrating this International Women’s Day. Now is the time to start preparing to attend an IWD event or parade in your area.

Because parades and events allow us to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights before large public audiences, ONA will coordinate and fund registration fees for Locals/Bargaining Units that plan to participate, and where there are more than 40 member participants, an appropriate float/vehicle. Also remember that Locals can apply for political action monies under Policy 26.11 to ONA First Vice-President Cathryn Hoy before the event. Contact your Bargaining Unit President or Local Coordinator for more information.

If you are looking for an event in your community, the International Women’s Day website features a searchable online calendar that includes events taking place around the world. Click here to search for an IWD event in your community.

If you or your Local will be participating in International Women’s Day activities in your community, let us know by emailing and we will post the details here for other ONA members. We also invite you to submit any photos from your event – be sure to include the names and Local number with your submission.

See below for details about 2019 International Women’s Day events:

Toronto: The annual IWD March and Rally takes place on Saturday, March 9. An ONA contingent will meet at the Toronto office (85 Grenville St) at 10:30 a.m. and walk to the OISE auditorium (252 Bloor St W) for the rally before marching to Ryerson at 1 p.m. An IWD fair will be held at Ryerson (55 Gould St) at 2 p.m.

ONA Resources:

Learn more about ONA's Human Rights and Equity team and their ongoing work here.

Every ONA member has the right to equal opportunity and full participation in their workplace and in their union. Our Human Rights and Equity Team has prepared answers to frequently asked questions on various topics including harassment in the workplace and accommodating family status in the workplace.

More Resources:

Visit the International Women’s Day website for resources and information about campaigns and events around the world.

The Department for Women and Gender Equality (previously Status of Women Canada) is a federal government organization dedicated to equality for women and “their full participation in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada.” They cover a wide variety of topics including ending gender-based violence and increasing women’s economic security.

The labour movement plays an integral role in fighting for women’s equality in the workplace and in society. Visit the Canadian Labour Congress website for background on a variety of topics affecting women at work including pay equity, violence against women and childcare.

Visit Ontario’s Pay Equity Commission website for information about employer obligations around pay equity and other resources.


We have prepared English and French versions of our International Women's Day poster. Below you will find two versions of the poster: a generic poster (PDF) and one with a blank space at the bottom (Word) which Locals can customize with their own message and/or event details. Click on the document name below and download the PDF or Word document of your choosing.

We have also created this shareable image that you can download and post to your social media accounts. Show your support and spread the word!