Upon awaking this morning, my phone informed me it was International Women’s Day. Immediately intrigued, I went to the website to learn more. Here’s a brief synopsis, including how YOU can get involved. Today. Or any day moving forward.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is a day of global celebration for the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Gender parity has come a long way since the early 1900’s when the concept of a day to unite and get in action to further the rights of women first took shape.

But there is still a long way to go. According to the site, World Economic forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap reports that gender parity is still 200 years away! That is a disturbing reality. More disturbing facts on current gender parity: 

  • Women are still not paid equally to their male counterparts.
  • Women are still under represented in business and politics.
  • Women still experience inequality in educational and healthcare opportunities.
  • Violence against women is much more prevalent than against men.

That’s a partial list. There are many more subtle, difficult-to-define ways in which gender disparity plays out in any given country or culture. As a side note, I was curious to see where the United States falls on the list of best and worst countries for gender parity. It’s not in the top ten in either direction.

But back to International Women’s Day. The point of the organization, which is backed by a multitude of progressive and diverse companies, is to join together in unity to both celebrate global progress and to continue to take action to continue the momentum. As Gloria Steinham once said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but the the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

How can you get involved?

When I clicked on the website, an opportunity for action immediately appeared. This year’s campaign is titled #PressforProgress. I pushed the button to see where it would lead, and was immediately given five choices of an area on which to focus, which would enable me to collaborate in accelerating gender parity:

  1. Maintain a gender parity mindset
  2. Challenge stereotypes and bias
  3. Forge positivity visibility of women
  4. Influence others beliefs and actions
  5. Celebrate women’s achievements

I chose option #2. At that point, I became one of 159,086 people who had also pressed forward to take action. (And that was 12 hours ago…who knows how many have stepped forward now.) I was instructed to post my intention on social media, which I immediately did on Facebook.

How else can we honor International Women’s Day, today and every day?

I wanted to know what else I could do to increase my immediate awareness on this issue. This is a huge and individual question that each person must answer for her or himself. For me, I chose to adopt a perspective of openness all throughout the day. How many instances would I come upon in one day that would remind me of either how far we have come or how far we have yet to go to reach gender parity?

Three situations came up throughout the day:

Before I even left the house this morning, I had already had two conversations with women forming new businesses who were questioning how much to bill for their services. In both instances, the proposed fees for service seemed low, and I inquired into this with these women independently. Were they potentially devaluing themselves for the very real contributions each could make in her respective field? The conversations were interesting and eye-opening, especially since I have been one to typically undervalue my own services. Through it all, I couldn’t help but realize that these conversations were not only significant because of their outcomes, but also because it’s unlikely that I would ever even have such a conversation with a man. As women, we owe it to ourselves and our gender to step boldly into our own worth and power — financially and otherwise.

As a writer, I was shocked to read more this morning about the sexual allegations against Sherman Alexie. No, not him! I have tremendous respect for Alexie as a writer, but this? He, too, has mistreated women? It seems to never end, the frequency of sexual misconduct and varying forms of violence that are turned against women with such alarming regularity.

This topic hits very close to home. My sister was drugged and sexually assaulted by a U.S. Senator at the age of 24. I was there immediately after it happened and saw her fears and doubts about pursuing criminal charges. I watched as the case made its way through the criminal justice system and became public in the media, over the months and years that followed. I witnessed how the event completely rattled her (and my family’s) faith in the goodness of people. I celebrated in the years that came later as my sister grew into a powerful spokesperson against sexual assault.

And finally, this afternoon I had a conversation with a woman about a social event we had both attended over the weekend. The event, a monthly gathering, was mostly women with a small representation from men. We both commented on how the few men present seemed to try to dominate the event in an inappropriate and disturbing fashion. The instances had to do with feeling entitled, at least that’s how it struck us both, to take extra time and hold the floor longer than any of the women present. This bothered us both, and we discussed at length where this sense of entitlement comes from.

Returning home, I reflected on all of this. I realized that while I cannot make a dent in international economic gender parity, or stop famous writers from mistreating women, I can nevertheless take small steps every day. Awareness is a start. Supporting one another in telling our stories and valuing ourselves and asserting our worth is another step.

I end the day with the recognition that one person at a time does make a difference. We are all part of the collective, and we owe it to ourselves and each other to do what we can each day. Choose to be mindful of small differences you can make throughout the coming year. And it’s never too late to go to the website and PressforProgress!  Every day is International Women’s Day.

“Individually, we’re one drop, but together we are an ocean.” 

 

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