When Progress Doesn’t Come Fast Enough

“I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.” 

– Emma Watson

We’ve come a long way in the fight for women’s rights. While we’ve gained ground in the past 100 years, there’s still much, much more progress to be made. In honor of Women’s History Month and National #RosieTheRiveter Day last week, let’s take a look at our past wins to inspire our current push for progress.

Nearly 200 years ago (yes, almost 200) women inaugurated our fight for equality. In the 1820s and 30s, most states had given white men the right to vote, but not women or people of color. Women were furious (rightfully so) and determined, much like we are today, to change the dynamic. Yet, it took women and advocates almost 100 years to win the right to vote on August 26, 1920, something in which they should’ve had since the beginning. Why did it take women so long to win this right? Obstacles, like the Civil War and World War I, slowed their momentum. While this was a big win for women and a large step in the right direction, it was still just a small step in what has become a long journey.

Fast forward to the 1940s when another iconic movement took our nation by storm. During WWII, the percentage of women that made up the U.S. workforce doubled, increasing from 27 to 37 percent, as women stepped up to fill in the labor force gaps when their fathers, husbands, brothers were away fighting in the war. 350,000 women also joined the military to serve alongside the men protecting our country. These brave, strong women were known as the original Rosies–the women that launched a worldwide movement that inspires our very own today.

The original Rosies showcased that women can, in fact, do the same job as men successfully and while this was, again, another step in the right direction, it wasn’t quite enough to enforce change. These Rosies only made 60 cents to every dollar a man made, yet they were putting in the same hard work and hours. When men returned from the war, women were the first to get laid off or moved into lower positions. Some researchers claim a positive effect came from women losing their jobs after the war: An increased interest in entrepreneurship.

The original Rosies showcased that women can, in fact, do the same job as men successfully and while this was, again, another step in the right direction, it wasn’t quite enough to enforce change.

Now, fast forward to where we are today. We are the modern day Rosies–working to build our own careers and adding to the economic power of women in business. We’re making our own statements to the world and creating our own stories, despite the adversities we face as women in the workforce. We’re putting in the same hard work and hours as the men around us, if not more. And yet, we’re still faced with inequalities holding us back–just like the original Rosie.

As we continue on this fight for women’s rights and equality, what can we learn from our progress in the past and how can we use that to move forward now?

1. Power, and change, comes in numbers

We should always be in good company with inspiring women surrounding us. Numerous instances have supported the fact that when women come together, we get shit done. While one voice can start a movement, the true impact comes from when we are all standing together to create change. So whether you’re marching for change or working to build your own legacy, surround yourself with a powerful community.

2. Push harder in an uphill battle

Don’t stray from the path. With obstacles flying at us from all fronts, it can be easy to get distracted or to give up. If we want to create true change, we need to continue pushing, relentlessly, individually and collectively. Our past progress has shown that major change can lead to a movement, but it can also deter from one as well. When we think our voices are starting to grow quieter, we must yell even louder. Keep the disruptions coming. A great way to do this? Refer to number one.

3. Kick discouragement to the curb

It can be discouraging when we don’t see our hard work paying off fast enough. Think of the activists that fought for the right to vote for nearly 100 years, some most likely weren’t around anymore to see their success come to fruition, but they didn’t stop fighting when they could. Think of the Rosies that were discouraged when they couldn’t find a job after getting laid off–they started building their own story. Seeing that it will currently take 217 years to close the global gender gap can be discouraging, but when we start to feel that way, we must snap out of it. Get mad. Redirect those feelings to motivation and do something about it.

4. See the positive in every situation

We will face obstacles and adversity, not only in our fight for equality but also in life because that’s the reality. How we choose to face each situation is on us. We can either let them knock us down or we can face the challenge head on. While the original Rosies were faced with a step forward during WWII and two steps back after the war, the positive that came from the situation was that more women were pushed into entrepreneurship. So through all the darkness, find the light.