17 March 2023 ~
“I am woman, hear me roar ~ In numbers too big to ignore ~ And I know too much to go back an’ pretend ~ ‘Cause I’ve heard it all before ~ And I’ve been down there on the floor ~ And no one’s ever gonna keep me down again ~ Yes, I am wise ~ But it’s wisdom born of pain ~ Yes, I’ve paid the price ~ But look how much I’ve gained ~ If I have to, I can do anything ~ I am strong ~ I am invincible ~ I am woman.”
I Am Woman ~ Those are the words of a very popular Helen Reddy song in 1972. I remember as a young girl riding my bicycle and proudly singing the words to that song, long before I understood what they meant.
A few years earlier, there was a Virginia Slim commercial in which the jingle said, “You’ve come a long way baby to get where you got to today.” Isn’t that the truth!
Women Celebrating Women
Forget the “Madness” … March is for Women. It’s Women’s History Month and 8 March is International Women’s Day. In March we spend the whole month lifting each other up and celebrating each other’s accomplishments and successes.
International Women’s Day is linked to the women’s movements during the Russian Revolution in 1917 when women protested for the right to vote. While there were many other demonstrations by women for equal rights and acknowledgment throughout history, it was not until 1979, that the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), commonly referred to as the Women’s Bill of Rights. The CEDAW defines discrimination against women, and it establishes the legal obligations of countries to end such practices.
CEDAW has been signed and ratified by 189 of 193 member states. It means that those member states have agreed to respect, protect, and promote the human rights of women. The hold outs? Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, Tonga, and the US. OK, that last one surprised me.
Throughout history, women have played a critical role in society. Ok – we can just skip over the fact that without us… well, let’s just say we are necessary and that everyone has a mother. But our contributions and accomplishments are vast. The roles women have played in achieving a more peaceful world have been significant. International Women’s Day recognizes the resolve, determination, strength, and leadership of women (and girls) around the world.
This year’s theme for IWD was Embrace Equity. A gender-equal world levels the playing field. It carves out an equal space for women in the workplace, whether that is in leadership, business, industry, tech, health sciences and services, education, politics and government, the arts, and sports. It makes it possible for women to thrive and it broadens their impact.
In tandem, this year’s theme of the National Women’s History Alliance is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories”. We are celebrating women in every corner of the world who have devoted their lives and talents to pursuing truth and exposing the human condition. Women have long been instrumental in passing on our heritage and communicating the lessons of those who came before us.
The Collective Effort
Gloria Steinem said that “the story of women’s struggles for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
And we see those collective efforts of lifting women and demanding equal consideration and access, all over the world. Women (and girls) in Afghanistan are using their voices to stand up and demand, of the Taliban, their right to education and to work. Women in Iran are standing in solidarity to wear what they want and in protest of being discounted. These women are risking their lives for something many of us have access to and never have to consider. Their strength is empowering.
I’ve been so blessed to have been surrounded by strong women all my life. From my great-grandmother, and both my grandmothers – one who birthed 10 children, and the other who was a single mom of two for a time. My mom was a career woman and still managed to raise a family alongside my father. My sister-in-law was the first in our family to graduate from college, and she inspired the desire that it is never too late. And without knowing gave me the push to dig in.
Nearly every single female in my family has a college degree or advanced degree. Between a couple of us, there are some 23 letters (it’s not a competition). My niece will walk with her EdD in Education and Instructional Leadership, from the University of Alabama on 5 May. I’m very proud of her… for both the doctorate and her choice of university (Roll Tide).
But to be able to say that education is the standard in my family and know that there are women and girls around the world, denied a very basic right that many of us accept so freely, is senseless. We call on societies around the world to open schools and colleges to women and girls. Truly your societies and cultures will be more enriched by allowing women and girls to have access to education and work.
The Strength of Women
Consider the strong females who hammered away at the “glass ceiling” and paved the way for our voices to be heard in so many different forums. And whether you agreed with them or not, their contribution stoked (and continues to stoke) the fires, that pushed us forward to progress.
I am inspired by the legacies of Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, and of course our first female Veep, Kamala Harris. I am equally inspired by the bravery and determination of Malala Yousafzai, Roya Boroumand, and so many women who stand on the principle of gender equity and equality, demanding justice, and human rights for everyone.
Our history is rich with women fighting the status quo. Right now, in Iran, thousands of women are marching in the streets and posting videos online, in protest against theocratic laws that treat them as property and second-class citizens. This activism was sparked by the death of Jina Mahsa Amini, a woman who died while in the custody of the morality police.
Iranian historian and human rights activist, Roya Boroumand said, “If you don’t react to the first violation of your rights, the second will come and then the third.” Complacency will accomplish nothing but lead to more restrictions, more degradation, and fewer rights.
And that drive is catching on. In the last two years, more women stepped into government leadership roles around the world, than ever before. There have also been gains for women as they advanced to senior management positions, growing from 29 percent to 32 percent in 2022. Statistics show that 41 Fortune 500 companies and one-third of college presidents are women. In 2023, there are 31 countries where 34 women serve as Heads of State and/or Heads of Government.
But let’s be clear… Women are still underrepresented in leadership positions. At the present growth rate, it will be another 100+ years before gender equality will reach the highest positions of power.
Someone might say, “But look how far we’ve come. We’ve come a long way, baby.” And I will agree, we have come a long way. But who wants to wait another 130 years for a seat at the table? Not me… and I bet, if that person is honest, neither do they. Another 130 years of earning 18 percent less than what men earn… just because we are female. No thanks. We can do better.
With gratitude… Lara
Photo Credit: Women in Côte d’Ivoire celebrate International Women’s Day by United Nations Photo. Licensed under CC by 2.0.
#thinkingoutloud #IAMWoman #internationalwomensday #embraceequity #equality #womensrights #humanrights #breaktheglassceiling