It’s hard to miss the purple cupcakes and frivolity that Friday 8 March brings with International Women’s Day (IWD).

This year’s theme, set by the United Nations, was Invest in Women. Gender equality is one of the greatest human rights challenges, and yet the United Nations estimates it will take 286 years to achieve if nothing changes.

One of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is to empower all women and girls. This represents improvement with respect to representation, autonomy, financial independence, personal safety, and more. Women continue to face barriers in making decisions about their own health and lives. In every corner of the world, they are at risk, and violence against women remains high. Everyone deserves safety, opportunity and the right to make decisions about their future.

At Iress we’re focused on creating genuine outcomes for long term impact. We decided to make the whole month of March focused on women’s equality, to help build awareness and action for everyone at Iress.

Each week of the month had a different theme, with various interactive sessions to break down barriers. We started by focusing on the core theme Invest in Women, with a webinar from Leaders for Good who provided a fast paced lesson in removing bias for effective decision making. Week two focused on Breaking norms, and we heard from many different inspiring speakers who are doing amazing things to promote better equality for women, such as Tahina Booth (Social Entrepreneur & Tri-International Athlete) Alison Shamir (Imposter Syndrome Expert & International Speaker), Sally Hetherington OAM (International Development Innovator), Giulia dos Prazeres Costa (Human Rights Lawyer, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development), Natalie du Toit (South African swimmer), and Karen Elliott (Professor of FinTech at University of Birmingham).

Week three was our Giving week. We selected four charities that support women and provided opportunities for Iress people to donate and volunteer. Ten Sydney-based team members were delighted to be able to use one of their three Iress volunteering days to help out at Two Good Co during Giving Week. Two Good supports, empowers and employs women who have experienced homelessness, domestic violence and complex trauma. They do this by donating meals to women’s shelters, and offering employment through the Work Work program. The Iress crew rolled up their sleeves to cook some delicious and nutritious meals. Onion tears were shed, pumpkins were sliced, chicken thighs were seasoned, and people worked their muscles stirring vegetables through the biggest bucket of fried rice you can imagine. After a production line that Henry Ford would be impressed with, 330 meals were packed, sealed and packaged up to be sent to women’s shelters across Sydney.

Two Good Co are an inimitable force, because they have come up with so much more than a stop gap solution for homeless or disadvantaged women. They have created programs that are dramatically altering the course of women’s lives and building their self-worth, so they can break free from the cycle of homelessness and disadvantage.

Our fourth and final week of women’s month has been focused on the theme of Reflection. We’re holding a book club session for all Iress people to join and discuss the thought-provoking Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, with the main character the antithesis to a stereotypical housewife in the 1950s who dares women to change the status quo.

Beyond all this, we understand that diverse people, leaders and board members, with different perspectives, experience and gender, will keep Iress relevant, competitive and productive. We’re delighted to have been mentioned in Work180's top 101 workplaces for women, and will continue to turn awareness into action.