“You will always have to work harder; that is just the way the world is.” – The number of times women hear this or some version of this throughout their lifetimes is astonishing. Whether it was said directly, implied, or clearly conveyed through actions, women face this daily.
While this is the reality of today, there have been improvements in many countries across the world in the light of women’s rights.
Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, a day that was first observed in 1911, with the United Nations officially recognizing it in 1975. While it is a celebration to commemorate the achievements of women, it is also a call to action for many socio-economic concerns that women face, such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women.
To celebrate the day, cities worldwide will hold festivals, fundraisers, 5Ks, and parades. It is marketed by corporations in an effort to promote a progressive culture. In pop culture, it is recognized by celebrities, talk shows, podcasts, tv shows, and many other facets of the entertainment industry. DC Comics is even taking the opportunity to celebrate their heroines like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Hawkgirl.
In some places, there may be protests, marches, and mobilizations of groups who want to be heard. There will certainly be social media posts, blogs, and other content focusing on social and economic inequality. There are clear disparities in the treatment of women in the U.S. workforce and many that are backed by data, for example, earnings.
In the U.S. workforce, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of female workers since the 1960s. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, 57.4% of women participated in the workforce compared to 69.2% of men. In the same year, the median weekly earnings for women were $821 while men were $1,007. When it comes to specific occupations, female CEOs made 80.47% of what their male counterparts made. Female lawyers made 85.29% of the male salary. In the healthcare industry, female physicians and surgeons made only 75.12% of the male salary.
This is why people are speaking out. While companies promote a culture dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and post their support on national and international holidays, there is still a clear inequality regarding women in the workforce.
We are taking steps in the right direction. One example that has gained international media attention is the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. The USWNT sued the U.S. Soccer Federation as the women’s team was making four times less than men, despite the women’s recent successes and the men’s, well, challenges. In 2019, the USWNT home kit became the highest selling soccer jersey in the U.S., and the 2019 Women’s World Cup was the most-watched English language soccer match in U.S. history. Arguments for paying the men more included that men’s soccer was more interesting, men were stronger and faster, and men’s soccer brought in more revenue than their female counterparts. However, in February of 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation settled on a commitment to equal pay for both teams… after years of the women speaking out.
“You will always have to work harder; that is just the way the world is.”
While the vast majority of us are not professional athletes, this struggle symbolizes exactly what women fighting for equality are going through. They can be the best at their profession, have more successes, and have the data to prove it, but they still make less than men. In this case, four times less.
However, just like in the case of the USWNT, we are fighting back, and we are not taking no for an answer. Some call it radical; others call it basic human rights.
On this International Women’s Day and throughout Women’s History Month, take a moment to recognize the women in your life, whether it is your colleague, your spouse, your friend, your neighbor, or your barista — appreciate them and consider the barriers they have broken to get where they are. Start a conversation to understand their day-to-day experiences. Ask them about how they experience the workplace or aspects of their life outside of it. You’ll be surprised what you learn — being treated differently at an auto shop, finding it more challenging to be taken seriously, being asked questions as a working mom that working dads would never receive, and so on. Learn these stories and use your voice to make a gender-equal world and sustainable tomorrow.
To all the women in the world, take today to celebrate each other. Build partnerships, helping each other up instead of tearing each other down. Recognize the accomplishments and activism of other women. Research women from today and women from the past who have worked hard to shatter the glass ceiling. Discuss the differences in women’s rights in countries across the world and how we can continue to improve. Finally, reach for your dreams and aspirations because you are strong, resilient, and able to achieve them. We may have to work hard, but we have the ability to change the world for the better.