This is a trying time for many of us. The nation is ideologically divided, politics are heating up, and it is hard to tell which information outlet to trust. We need a reason to celebrate, and International Women’s Day gives us that.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is my favorite holiday. It provides space and time to acknowledge the contributions women make to our society. IWD has been celebrated for over 100 years in countries around the world. And was recognized by the United Nations in 1975 and since then has been celebrated on March 8th, the start of the second week of Women’s History Month.
Lifting women and celebrating their accomplishments has become increasingly important to me as a way of driving a positive cultural change in this tumultuous time. The data on the gender gap published annually by the World Economic Forum is sobering for the United States. The report tracks progress over time on economic, education health, and political criteria across 153 countries with the intent to raise awareness of the challenges we still face with gender parity.
In 2020 the overall global gap has closed slightly but will still take almost 100 years to close. The sobering news is the U.S. has dropped 2 places in the overall ranking to 53rd place, mostly due to the slide in economic opportunity and participation. While Western Europe is predicted to close the gender gap in 54 years, it will take North America 3 x as long at 151 years.
While countries continue to make good progress in education and health parity, women’s economic participation and opportunity is regressing despite there being a strong correlation between the countries’ gender gap and economic performance. Here, the figures are sobering, with a deteriorating situation, it will be a massive 257 years before we achieve gender parity in economic participation compared to 202 years in the 2019 report.
It is sad to say, but 257 years to equality may not be accurate. In looking at the stats often shared on the state of women, the intersections of race, culture, and identity are sometimes missing. And the nuanced lives that many lead navigating the spaces, places, and looking to feel as though we belong are not recorded.
To address these deficiencies, workforce strategies, designed by policy-makers and companies, must ensure that women are better equipped (in terms of improved skills or reskilling) to deal with these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to ensure parity across all skill sets, roles and at all levels of the organization.
It takes all of us to change the culture. Progress is being made in some areas. In the US women were awarded 57% of Bachelor-level degrees and made up the majority of the college-educated workforce for the first time in 2019.
Strengthening the systems and process to speed up cultural change and increase diversity balance is all of our responsibilities. There are businesses and organizations in every community that offer the opportunity to support women that need your engagement.
Commit to taking steps in your own life to closing the gender gap by donating your time, money, or materials to organizations that support women and or patronize women-owned businesses. The Be Bold Now Take Action program is a starting point and provides a list of these organizations that need your involvement
Be Bold Now in your own life. Women don’t all have to agree, but we do need to come together and support one another to accelerate an equitable future for all of us and those that follow us.
Happy International Women’s Day