Despite the fact that the majority of the world’s population are women, in many places around the world women still struggle for parity in terms of social, economic, cultural and political status. Even in the US, women still earn less than men who do the same job in many professions.
The United Nations’ International Women’s Day, which this year will be held on Tuesday, March 8, is a global event that celebrates the role of women in the world and calls attention to the need for gender parity worldwide. This year’s theme is “Equality for Women Is Progress for All.”
A Tradition for More than a Century
The first International Women’s Day was held in 1908, when more than 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City to demand equal pay, shorter work hours, and the right to vote. Through the years, the struggle for women’s equality has continued with women worldwide joining the cause.
Each year for more than a century, the event has grown in size and importance. Today, millions of women worldwide are expected to participate in International Women’s Day by participating in marches, attending speeches, seminars, and other events that raise awareness of the fact that despite advances over the years, the struggle for gender parity goes on.
No single government, non-governmental organization (NGO), charitable organization, business, academic institution, or even women’s network is solely responsible for organizing International Women’s Day, according to world-renowned women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. Instead, participating groups are invited to declare an annual theme that supports their specific cause or purpose, she says.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” Steinem said in a news release announcing this year’s event.
Celebration of Women’s Journey to Equality
International Women’s Day is about advocating for the continued struggle for equality of the sexes. But it’s also about celebrating the achievements women have accomplished since the first event was held more than 100 years ago.
When the first march was held, women didn’t have the right to vote in the US. As this year’s event draws closer, Hillary Clinton is the leading Democratic candidate for the highest office in the land, president of the United States. Even Republicans have a viable female candidate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
But politics isn’t the only area where women have made great advances over the years. In business, the number of women in leadership positions continues to increase. This year’s list of Fortune 500 companies included 24 female CEOs, the most in history.
This list included some of the world’s biggest and most influential companies, including Mary Barra leading General Motors, Ginny Rometty taking the helm at IBM, and Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard. Yet despite setting a new record, the overall number of women business leaders remains relatively small, with only 5 percent of the biggest companies in the US being led by women. That’s especially disconcerting when you consider that women make up 45 percent of the general workforce among all of the companies included on the Forbes list.
Besides advances in political and business roles, women have also made progress in the culture overall. But there is still much to do.
Worldwide, an estimated 14 million young women are still being forced into arranged marriages, with the average age of participating females being 13 years old, compared to the men in the arranged weddings, whose average age is 37. Globally, one out of every nine girls is married before they turn the age of 15.
And that’s not all. In developing countries, the leading cause of death for females between the ages of 15 and 19 years old is childbirth. And even in developed countries, a woman’s right to determine her own reproductive health care is still limited. In the US, the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade is closer to being reconsidered than it has since it was first issued in the early 1970s.
There also is much room for improvement in the area of economic equality between men and women. Today, much is celebrated about the advancement of women in the workplace, but even in the US –arguably the world’s most economically progressive country – the average female worker still earns only 77 cents for every dollar that her male counterpart doing the same job makes.
This is despite the fact that today more women earn college and post graduate degrees than men.
Inequality at Every Level of the Pay Scale
Even highly paid movie stars like Jennifer Lawrence aren’t treated with the same respect as their male stars. The Academy Award-winning star came out for equal pay for female actresses after it was revealed during the Sony leaked emails flap that she was paid far less for her role in the film “American Hustle” than her male co-stars Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale.
“Tis might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn’t completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a ‘spoiled brat’” the outspoken star wrote in response to the controversy. “For some reason, I can’t picture someone saying that about a man.”
As women continue to work for more political, cultural and economic equality, some wonder if attitudes may be changing back to an earlier time. A recent poll conducted by the Economist found that 72 percent of women in the US did not consider themselves to be feminists.
Hopefully, important events like International Women’s Day can change some of these perspectives and help both men and women realize that women deserve the same equality as men on every level. Through the planned rallies, business conferences, and networking events, everybody can make a difference.
Mitrefinch proudly supports International Women’s Day and looks forward to the event helping to change attitudes for the better worldwide.