March is just chock full of good weeks, months and days, like International Women's Day (March 8), Women's History Month, and National Sleep Awareness Week (more on that one in the next blog!). Ever wonder why? Is it because somebody felt sorry for March, the longest, dreariest end-of-winter month, and wanted to show it some love? Or because humans have an innate need to routinize, "eventize" and commercialize things?
Actually, it turns out there's an interesting history. International Woman's Day, observed in some shape or form since 1911, was officially recognized by the UN in the 1970s. Also in the '70s, Santa Rosa, CA hosted a notable “week-long celebration of women’s contributions to culture, history and society" and other celebrations sprang up in states across the country. President Carter named the first official National Women's History Week in March of 1980; in 1987 Congress turned the week into a month-long time to educate (and celebrate) women's achievements in this country. Notably, it's also a time to look critically at issues of equality and opportunities for women.
That's great, but shouldn't we be doing this all year long? Hell yes! Let's take a brief look at recent woman's history. In 1971 a woman could not: get a credit card in her own name, get pregnant without risking losing her job, or serve on a jury in all 50 states. Women couldn't get health insurance at the same cost as men because sex discrimination wasn’t outlawed in health insurance until 2010 -- that's right -- 2010!
We've made gains for sure, but there's still a lot that needs to change. Women still earn only 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. That means the median salary for men is roughly 19% higher than the median salary for women. Over a 40-year career, that could mean an average of $900,000 less for a woman doing the exact same work. Add to that the pandemic's disproportionate and profound economic impact on women - with female unemployment hitting the double digits this past year for the first time since 1948. And women of color face even tougher statistics and challenges.
What can we do to move the needle forward in a meaningful way? This year's International Women's Day theme is "Choose to Challenge" -- a commitment to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world. Here are a few simple ways to celebrate - and elevate - women this Women’s History Month:
Buy from and support women-owned businesses
Watch women-produced and directed films
Read and buy books from female writers and authors
Lobby for accelerated gender parity
Fundraise for female-focused charities
Celebrate the women in your life - most importantly yourself!
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