In 1975 ,the United Nations (UN) designated March 8th as International Women’s Day (IWD) with the aim of raising awareness for women’s empowerment and equality. And today, gender inequality is still a global challenge. Half of the population is still denied equal access to employment opportunities, equal pay, healthcare, education, and political representation.
The theme for this year’s IWD is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.
“We want to construct a different world of work for women. As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director.
The agenda encompasses the idea that with a globalized, digitalized, technologically advanced workplace, inclusive education is a priority. Widespread inherent bias keeps girls from pursuing careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) topics despite the fact that 74% of middle school girls show an interest in these areas.
The United States ranks 45 on the 2016 World Economic Forum Global Index, which tracks gender disparity in education, economic, health, and political criteria. For a country ranking as one of the wealthiest in the world this is an egregious flaw. Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a 20% gender gap persists (for women of color this gap is even higher). In 2009, The Paycheck Fairness Act sought to close the gap but repeatedly failed to pass Congress. It takes only a cursory look at our political representation to see that women are not fairly represented.
Unfortunately, women themselves are often blamed as the source of gender inequality. All part of inherent bias, reasons cited are their lack of competitive spirit, their inability to negotiate raises, their desire to only work part-time so they can raise their families, and their lack of education. These myths obscure the fact that institutional and cultural reform is sorely needed. Despite the fact that women are now more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree than men, women with degrees and qualifications equal to or greater than a man’s still see a discrepancy in pay.
Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington are using IWD as a call for action and economic solidarity. They have organized ‘A Day Without a Woman‘ strike that will include at least 30 countries. Actions involve taking the day off from paid and unpaid work, wearing the revolutionary color of red, and not making any purchases. A strike is fitting considering that Women’s Day began with the Socialist Party in NY as a strike for higher wages and shorter hours.
Global events include: IWD rallies, marches, academic panels, and art festivals in places like NY, Morocco, Rwanda, Belgium. Even if you’re in a location where massive organization is unlikely or restricted, online participation is encouraged. Follow @UN_Women on Twitter. Share your activity with a #BeBoldForChange or #IWD2017 hashtag.
Although the benefits of gender parity have been firmly established, the socially accepted idea that women are inferior persists and we are burdened with proving these benefits time and time again. Let’s celebrate women’s contributions to society and protest further inequality. Whether it’s a celebration of women’s achievements or a call to action, International Women’s Day is a global response of solidarity — and one that we can all champion.