“[International Women’s Day is] a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.”
March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD). For over a hundred years, people from across the globe have come together to celebrate and recognize the power and progress of women internationally. However, IWD is not only a day of reflection – it is a day to look toward the future and examine the untapped potential of women and our allies.
What’s motivating me this IWD? According to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 217 years to close the global gender gap. Two. Hundred. Seventeen. Years. That is 2.5xs the average lifespan for women, more than twenty-one times longer than the average business’ existence, and eight, yes I said eight, generations away. At the rate we’re going, global equality won’t occur until 2234.
How did we get here?
There is no one answer—the reasons are ten-fold with intersecting levels of discrimination ultimately affecting our ability to close the global gap. However, researchers point towards the pay gap (in the United States, we’re closing in on 80 cents to the dollar) women working on average 50 minutes longer a day than men (with four hours of this workday going towards unpaid work, 3 hours more than men) and women’s much more slim chance of reaching senior roles as main barriers preventing us from reaching gender equality.
Luckily, it isn’t all bad news – the global gender gap does not represent the progress made in many places; in Western Europe, the gap will close in less than 63 years (or around 2,080 – a long ways away but still part of this millennium ?). In 2016, Hired found that their female users with two years of experience or less asked for 2% more in compensation and received job offers 7% higher than men. While encouraging, this subgroup is less than representative and as a member of the global economy and supporter of Shine Theory, the individual breakdown of specific groups’ gender equality is subjacent by the need for global gender equality. The only way women will have a seat at the table, or remake the table all together, is if we have international equality.
What does that mean for IWD?
Researchers recognize the important role of politics in maintaining or exasperating the gender gap – many find that the gap will not close until governments participate in more bold policymaking acts. Just like the gender gap, IWD has been political in nature since its inception. The first iteration of IWD occurred in 1908 when over 15,000 women took to the streets of New York City (also an early version of our annual Women’s March, thank you suffragettes!). These women took their political demands into their own hands through a mass demonstration asking for shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
Since 1908, IWD has taken many forms, and the United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day in 1975. IWD’s underlying theme remains consistent throughout the years – it’s goal is to not only celebrate women and our progress, but to campaign for better rights and inclusion. Just like the women who came before us, IWD is an important day to understand how to leverage our political voice to push toward gender equality.
This year’s theme presses us even more:
Each year, IWD selects a theme that sets the stage for the day itself, as well as the upcoming year. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress.
One of the most determining factors of a movement’s success is its ability to state and mobilize for specific policy goals, giving a movement a unified voice and action points. IWD asks each ally to #PressforProgress and commit to a specific form of action that will lead to greater political power for women and allies and press against gender parity through:
Maintaining a gender parity mindset
Challenging stereotypes and bias
Forging positive visibility of women
Influencing others’ beliefs / actions
Celebrating women’s achievements
In each category, IWD lists specific actions we can take to be more political in our everyday lives. These include nominating women for opportunities, always using inclusive language, selecting women as spokespeople and leaders and so on. These actions help maintain the political nature of IWD into the 21st century and will continue our press toward global gender equality. This year, I’ll be working to #PressforProgress and forge positive visibility of women, specifically by supporting visible women. There are enough haters in this world, I don’t need to be another one. Instead, I will support the women who have a voice and platform and make sure they are respected and heard.
So go ahead and select which form of action speaks to you this year (it can be more than one!) and take some time to think about what actions you can take in your everyday life to #PressforProgress. It’s all of our responsibility to close the gap.
But remember, the political nature of IWD doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate!
Showing up for events that align with your beliefs is political in and of itself. IWD is a unique opportunity to attend events specifically catered toward celebrating and promoting women’s progress in the future. Celebrating our past success will also help maintain mobilization in the future, there’s nothing like a “you go, girl!” to help you get inspired to continue your fight. If you’re in Seattle, check out some of the amazing IWD events that will leave you inspired and ready to continue fighting for change:
This year, International Women’s Day marks 100 years since the first women were granted the right to vote in the UK (it was only 30 landowning women, but we had to start somewhere). Even if you can’t make it to any curated IWD events, that’s certainly something to celebrate ?!
Finally, remember that IWD is just a starting point
Think of IWD as the kickoff to this year’s #PressforProgress (kind of like our own Olympic opening ceremony – we miss you already, Chloe Kim!). The movement does not exist for a day, but for the whole year ahead. In order to capitalize on the political opportunity that arises from IWD and work toward closing the gender gap, we must continue mobilizing throughout the year with different avenues. Progress doesn’t happen in one day, sustained mobilization is the only way we can ensure a better future for all women and allies and the opportunity to close the gap in the twenty-first century.
Luckily for us, IWD falls early in Women’s History Month, meaning it’s only the beginning of us celebrating the progress we’ve made in the last few centuries. This year, I urge you to recognize the political power events, like IWD and Women’s History Month, have for women and allies everywhere and use this power to continue celebrating IWD as a time to act politically and mobilize for change.