Sunday is International Women’s Day (IWD). If you were unaware, you somehow escaped the marketing behemoth that has grown up around it, or you were distracted by other things this week (looking at your Coronavirus and Super Tuesday). Or maybe you were thinking ‘why do we need a day to celebrate…more than half of the population?’ Fair. But IWD isn’t only a celebration (which, incidentally, is always needed), it advocates for gender equality – and if you think that’s not needed, you’re dead wrong (for at least the next 100 years, give or take).
It makes me uncomfortable to admit this, but I’ve never really done anything for IWD before. Sure, I’ve attended a few events, but I’ve never celebrated the day with intention. This year feels particularly poignant for three reasons. First: motherhood. Not because motherhood has made me especially aware of my womanhood (though it has), but because I’m responsible for a tiny human now. I feel his eyes looking at me and it makes my mind race with everything I want him to learn and see. I want him to see strong women. Second: you all. I talk with working parents every day, and you are all nothing short of exceptional, but today I am focusing on the moms. The stories I hear about what you accomplish, endure and achieve are breathtaking. Third: the women in my life. I’ve always had both male and female friends, but the people I consistently turn to each day are my female friends and family. Making friends as we get older is hard. I’m new(ish) to the city I live in, so I’ve gone through that recently, but last night I was at dinner with 4 incredibly talented, interesting women and it reminded me how crucial these friendships are to me. I am incredibly grateful to all the women in my life.
The fight for gender equality is long and varied. There are many important aspects, but thinking about caregivers specifically, one of the biggest is unpaid labor. If American women earned a minimum wage for their unpaid labor, they would have earned $1.5 trillion last year, globally that number jumps to $10.9 trillion. That exceeds the combined revenue of the 50 largest companies on the Fortune 500 list. This number includes the hours of unpaid labor working women are providing in addition to their full time jobs. It’s an absolutely staggering amount.
Truthfully, I wasn’t going to admit how delinquent I’ve been about IWD in the past. But that felt wrong. At no other point in my life have I relied as heavily on community as I have this year, and a huge portion of that community is female. I know I haven’t done enough, and I’m embarrassed. There is a lot to celebrate, we’ve seen progress, but there is so much more left to fight for. One day, IWD may just be a celebration of equality, but today it is still both a celebration of women and a fight for equality. Whether you attend a rally or event, thank someone for labor they do that often goes unnoticed, or work for bigger change (salary transparency is a great actionable step in pushing for equal pay), do something. Do anything, do more than one thing. Because if you’re reading this, you’re likely involved in raising the next generation, and they’re observing and absorbing everything you do. Together we can do better.