Celebrating International Women’s Day, March 8th

International Women’s Day is a global holiday to celebrate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women. The earliest recognition of a Women’s Day was in New York in 1909, and in 1910, in Germany, the International Women’s Socialist Conference proposed this be an annual event. Subsequently, celebrations and acknowledgement of a Women’s Day took place across Europe on various dates, but it wasn’t until 1917 when women gained suffrage (the right to vote) in Soviet Russia that March 8th was decided upon. In the USA, the day was a platform to fight for the right to vote, until that right was granted in 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment.

In the 1960’s, Women’s Day was adopted by the global feminist movement, and it was officially adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1977 as an international day of recognition. Today, the UN observes this day in association with women’s rights in various countries, and around various issues pertaining to the advancement of women. This day of acknowledgement has its roots in protests and continues to be a day to call for radical change.

In 2021, on average, women earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earned.

2020 marked the 100th anniversary of women in the United States having voting rights and there is so much more to be done towards equal rights for women. As the 1970’s slogan said, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”—but women still have a long way to go.

In 2021, on average, women earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earned. Last year, Equal Pay Day was March 21, as that’s how far into 2021 the average American woman had to work (in addition to working all of 2020) to make as much money as the average American man earned in 2020. The gender pay gap is getting smaller but it was predicted, before the pandemic hit, that women will remain earning less until at least 2059. Reasons for this are that work done by women is generally undervalued, and compared to working fathers, working mothers are penalized by lower paying jobs, or fewer opportunities for promotion due to parental responsibilities. Another factor is that workers in female-dominated fields are paid lower salaries than workers in male-dominated fields, even when the jobs require the same level of skill, education, and training.

According to the American Association of University Women, “America’s history of slavery, segregation, and exploitation of immigrants has created deep-rooted inequalities that persist today. Consequently, most women of color have not had— nor do they have now—access to the same education and employment opportunities that white people have. For instance, Black women and Latinas are disproportionately working in service, domestic, caregiving, and agricultural jobs, which have been systemically undervalued and undercompensated.”

March 2020 was the beginning of the need for physical distancing and isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic 2 years later, gender equality experts have indicated that the biggest impact of the pandemic was on gender equality. Working women were hardest hit, in particular women of color. According to US Census data, in the third week of July 2020, 32.1% of unemployed women ages 25 to 44 were not working outside the home due to childcare demands, compared to only 12.1% of men in the same group.

Since the pandemic began, more women than men have lost their jobs either due to sectors dominated by women shrinking, or the need to be the primary caretaker of either children who were remote schooling, or family members who were elders or ill. Having to leave the workforce to care for others is an impediment to career advancement, and as employers look to salary history to set wages it means when they do return to the workforce their wage standard is lower. In essence, women who are now re-entering the workforce are financially 2 years behind the rest of the workforce.

While women have come a long way, the pandemic has become a giant setback, in the U.S. and globally, for gender equality. This needs to be acknowledged by the business sector, and by government at the local, state, and federal levels. The current administration has taken steps to recognize gender inequity as it impacts economic growth and development, democracy, and political stability. A White House Gender Policy Council has been charged with leading the development of a National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. The council is taking an intersectional approach which considers the challenges and barriers faced by those who experience compounding forms of discrimination and bias that relate to gender, race, disability, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion. You can read the strategy statement at the Whitehouse.gov website. This is a good start, but we all need to keep the momentum going.

At LifePath, we are urging legislators to endorse and pass bills, which support home care workers, with enough pay to earn a living wage. We are collaborating and working on initiatives which will help provide career ladders, and modes of advancement through training, and supervision to make this very necessary work a valued career choice in the labor market which is dominated by women.

This March 8th, think about all women have accomplished thus far, and with equity, how much more women emerging from the pandemic can contribute to the business sector, to scientific and economic growth, to governance, and to all aspects of society.

Barbara Bodzin
Barbara Bodzin, Former LifePath Executive Director
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