March 8, 2021 was International Women’s Day around the world, as it is celebrated on that day every year. The first International Women’s Day was honored officially in 1911 in several countries in Europe, and was celebrated by the United Nations for the first time in 1975. March is also Women’s History Month in the United States. Both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month are important markers for celebrating women’s achievements, leadership, and participation in history and daily life.
The last couple of years have shown significant gains in women’s leadership. The election of Kamala Harris as Vice President in the United States was a historic moment, as she was the first woman ever to be elected to that office, which is also the highest office of national leadership that a woman in the United States has so far held. Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this year, being the first woman and the first person from an African nation to take on the position. Record numbers of women, including women of color, will serve in Congress in the United States in 2021.
Still, there is much work to be done in terms of women’s leadership, equity, and equality. Women are still vastly underrepresented in positions of leadership in government and the workplace. In the working world, there is inequity in terms of pay, promotions, and corporate and organizational leadership. There is still a disproportionate amount of harassment and violence against women. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly exacerbated inequities, forcing many women to leave the workforce in the United States and take on much of the unpaid domestic labor in the home. Women’s reproductive rights and health are consistently undermined and under threat of being curtailed.
What can you do to help advance women’s equity and continue the progress made? There are many things that both women and men can do on a day-to-day basis that will help improve lives. One of the most important is demanding an equal work culture, where unconscious bias, discrimination, sexism, and harassment is called out. Employees can do this at a micro level with fellow colleagues, and managers have a big impact if they demonstrate that they lead a workplace where this is not tolerated. To make a difference, employers must be proactive about fairness in pay, work assignments, and promotions. Women must occupy top leadership positions in companies and organizations, and have fair representation on corporate boards.
It is also vitally important that women participate in government and have visible roles in their communities so that they can shape policies that will affect their lives. Vote, run for office at all levels, take part in civic and community organizations, and donate your time and money to organizations that promote equality and diversity.
Reject outdated notions of gender roles, including those for yourself. Lots of ideas, in the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “have long since been discredited,” but unfortunately continue to linger. It can’t be stressed enough that pre-existing ideas of gender and stereotypes hurt women when defining their responsibilities at home and in the workplace.
Finally, support girls and young women by not assigning stereotypes to them that society has traditionally assigned to women. Encourage girls to do things they may not have been encouraged to do in the past, such as focusing on studying or majoring in the sciences, math, engineering, and computer science fields, speaking out against micro-aggressions, or immediately contending for a leadership rather than a supporting role. Actively promote women who are authors, directors, artists, designers, and others who play a role in culture. Girls can also benefit greatly from having male as well as female mentors.
As we move forward in this decade of the 2020’s, 1girl is thrilled to be a part of this path forward and to work with the girls and women who are part of this organization.