March is National Women’s History Month & International Women’s Day is March 8th. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year, the theme is to create a gender-equal world. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gains women had achieved in past decades are slipping away. The sectors in which women are employed have been disproportionately cut, women are more likely to have taken over child/elder care and homeschooling. Domestic abuse has also increased during the pandemic.
When I reflect on Women’s History Month, I think of my grandmother. She was born in 1907 in London, England. She chose to follow in her father’s footsteps to become an Opthalmic Optician (This degree doesn’t exist in the US but is similar to an Optometrist). She was the only female in her class. One day, her professor went to her father to demand that he withdraw her from the school. Her father could not imagine the reason as he knew her to be highly intelligent and dedicated. As her father relentlessly demanded a logical explanation, he was finally able to extract the real reason the professor wanted her out of the program. He was in love with her and she was distracting him from being able to teach! Fortunately for Granny, her father told him to get over it as she was committed to completing the courses and being able to practice her profession.
My grandmother is just one example of a strong, dedicated woman committed to shifting the status quo in order to be a professional working woman and an equal to men. As you reflect on your life, who have been your mentors, you role-models? Who has inspired you to be a better woman and not settle for anything less than the same opportunities and responsibilities that men have? Perhaps it was your mother, a professor, a boss, a partner or a coach? Consider whether it may have been your father or another man, rather than a woman. I’m sure for my grandmother, it was her father, not her mother!
Have you acknowledged this person for the difference s/he made for you? If the person is still living, what difference might it make for you to let him or her know the impact s/he has made in your life? In the event the person has passed, is there another way you might like to acknowledge him or her? A poem or prayer? Lighting a candle? Making a donation towards a woman’s organization or towards a girl’s education? Mentoring a colleague or employee? Being a big sister or role model for a child without positive role models? Who do you want to be for the girls and women around you? What will you commit to in service of that?
I invite you to take a personal inventory regarding the gender equality you’ve attained over the course of your life. In what situations might you have been marginalized? Are there areas where you still feel marginalized? Look also at areas in which you felt you had achieved some parity that may have slipped since the start of the pandemic. What might you do to regain equality where it may have slipped? Are there conversations to be had with people at home or at work? What are you allowing or putting up with that is not truly acceptable to you? What requests can you make? What boundaries can you put in place?
Tomorrow, in honor of International Women’s Day, and for the rest of National Women’s History Month, celebrate you! Celebrate women and girls everywhere! You make a massive difference in who you are all you do. We all do!