Today is International Women's Day. Most people will celebrate by shouting out women they admire and respect. Others will give tokens of appreciation like chocolate or flowers. And others will take the opportunity to highlight noteworthy achievements of women in history.

Last year, one McDonald's franchisee turned the iconic arch upside down at all her stores in honor of International Women's Day.

While these are lovely ways to celebrate the contribution of women to the world, perhaps your business can take the opportunity to honor the women who've had an impact in your business by committing to doing your part toward advancing equality for women.

Here are some examples of ways your company can celebrate women, in a manner that goes beyond the gesture and makes lasting change beyond the official day.

1. Close the gender pay gap in your company.

Women still make 82 percent of what men earn, according to a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center. Those numbers may look different in your company. But as you look closely at your numbers, recognize that if the pay isn't equal among men and women who do the same job, then you've got work to do.

Find out how your company measures up. If a gender pay gap does exist, share the data with your team. Let them know how your company intends to close the gap, and by when.

When you do, your team will see that you truly value women, because you pay them what they are worth.

2. Commit to more equal representation.

In 2018, less than five percent of Fortune 500 companies were led by women. If you look at leadership and board-level positions, there is a troublesome trend of underrepresentation of women in executive positions.

Your company can take a leadership role in breaking this cycle. Commit to ensuring there are more women in leadership and executive positions. When your leadership is representative of both your workforce and the customers you serve, you'll be in a better position to make both your customers and your team feel like they belong.

3. Spearhead programs that give women opportunities in professional settings where they are underrepresented.

In some instances, there may be some areas where women are underrepresented. It's not that they aren't capable; it could just be that they haven't considered certain opportunities.

You don't have to accept that there are fewer women in certain fields. You can take a leadership role to change it.

Last year, Google and PRX launched a comprehensive podcast training program to increase the number of women and people of color in podcasting.

If you feel like there aren't enough women in areas that are meaningful to your business, implement a program to train more women in those areas.

4. Donate to organizations that advance equality for women and girls.

You can still contribute to making positive change even if your company isn't the one leading it. Donating funds, resources, and volunteer hours to companies that are leading the way in advancing the status of women is also helpful.

Last year, I attended a SHINE Bootcamp, a weekend program designed to help more women become keynote speakers. The space where the bootcamp was held was donated, the coaches' time was donated, as well as other tools of the trade that prepared each of the attendees to get on the stage.

Look for organizations that have programs you admire, and identify ways you can partner with and support them in both the short and long term.

5. Sit down with the women on your team to understand what their biggest challenges are.

Every organization is different. And while there are some issues that are prevalent across the board, the women who work in your company may have an entirely different set of challenges and needs that are top of mind for them.

Instead of guessing which issues need to be tackled, sit down with the women on your team to find out what their biggest pains are. As you listen to their point of view, and take the time to walk a mile in their shoes, you may find simple ways to make life better for them--that will make a big impact on their lives and on how they contribute and show up at work.

International Women's Day is a day to celebrate. But don't just celebrate women superficially. Show them how much you really care, by making lasting change that extends well beyond one day.

Published on: Mar 8, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.