Today is International Women’s Day, which we’ll call IWD for short. Each year, there’s a theme that advances equity for women and females worldwide. IWD is marked on March 8 annually to celebrate the achievements of women and issue a call to action for parity. (Parity is equal treatment). To mark the event, many people support women’s charities and hold events throughout March, as it is also Women’s History Month.
Women’s History Month is celebrated by the Library of Congress and other prominent authorities to commemorate and encourage the study and celebration of women worldwide. In 1981, Congress declared the week beginning March 7, 1982 as Women’s History Week and celebrated it for the next five years until it designated Women’s History Month through a joint resolution beginning in 1987. Each president subsequently issued proclamations declaring Women’s History Month since 1995.
This year’s theme is “Break the Bias,” and people are encouraged to participate in activities that break gender bias, discrimination, and stereotypes about women and those invisible glass ceilings we always seem to bump against, whether in our personal or professional lives. We are still a good way off from real progress, unfortunately. In a show of solidarity, people of all genders are encouraged to strike a pose with their arms crossed in X formation, as if to say, “No more!” You are encouraged to post the image on social media and other outlets with the hashtag #BreakTheBias. So, are you in or not?
What Is the Bias?
For centuries, there have been literal and figurative limits put on women and gender non-conforming females. Why? That question is a loaded one and it always delves into the political side of life. It shouldn’t because we’re dealing with human rights, but it does due to history. Rather than discuss such a loaded question, instead, we will simply outline exactly what the bias has been that’s still holding us back since we agree as a nation to treat all people equally.
Sometimes, there are overt narratives and actions (explicit bias) that hold women back. Other times, the narrative is hidden, or implied (implicit bias). And still, in other cases the system is designed to hold women down (systemic bias). One narrative we heard a lot in our past life on a covert level was, “You can’t be a successful female CEO and raise a family at the same time.” Man, that’s an old one! Naturally, we worked twice as hard as everyone else just to prove ourselves. You wouldn’t believe how prevalent that myth still is, despite the inception of the Family and Medical Leave Act and women entering the workplace after WWII. Mind you, women would have been more prevalent in the workplace prior to that time if not for social norms.
Some ancient trades have always been open to women but by and large, the concept of working women is still a fairly new one, and the trades open to us have been severely limited due to our gender! For example, women who choose to work in the skin trade aren’t treated as equals. We still aren’t paid the same for equal work in most fields, either. Newsflash: You might be afforded equal protection under the law, but good luck availing yourself of that protection! In reality, it’s easier said than done. If you don’t have access to legal counsel and you experience discrimination, we wish you the best of luck getting justice.
Other biases include limits on what women should wear, where women should go, what women should do, how women should act, how women should talk, and what women should talk about! The list is practically endless, and it’s always determined by cultural norms and values.
Women are not allowed to be brave, bold, loud, or proud. We are conditioned to be deferential. We have centuries of conditioning to shake off and just as many years’ worth of actual societal limits to move past if we want equal treatment, not just equal rights. Never forget that we were the LAST people to earn the right to vote in the year 1920. Men were given that right first. They were given that right. WE had to work for it.
How to Break the Bias
So how do you break the bias? First, you recognize that it exists and that it’s still prevalent in our society despite active efforts to make progress. Bias is a natural instinct that becomes extinct the more educated we become as people and as a society. Once you are aware of your bias, you can take active steps toward changing it. Leading with equity in all that you do is a great start. Make conscious choices to promote fairness and equal treatment among your peers, at the workplace, and in your networks. Lead by example. It never hurts to advocate for women when you see an unfair policy or practice. Many women still live in fear of retribution if they speak out. Perhaps you can be their voice.
Don’t assume that all women and females are weak and meek, though. Rather, simply know that we have a lot more progress to make and check your assumptions. Don’t assume that we have fair and equal treatment just because it’s the 21st Century. We’re not there yet. Take this time to study women’s history – learn what we’ve been through and what we still must overcome. When you research and remind yourself of our past and present, you’ll understand why we still need moments like this.
What You Can Do
You can register with International Women’s Day to access resources and share your photos. You can post news of events you’re holding during March and network with other people who support women’s rights.
Most importantly, you should promote and support women year-round and people who don’t conform to the binary. Macroscopic change happens on a microscopic level – in your communities, hometowns, and households. It happens in the workplace and among leaders. If you’re in a position of influence, lend your platform to those who don’t have one. You would be surprised at how much progress we can make together when we treat each other as equals.
Ending the Bias
There is talk among media and public relations professionals about whether to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Some people want progress now and a world where gender no longer matters. Others understand that we still have more progress to make together before we achieve equity. We see value in celebrating IWD along with many partners from around the globe. You could be one of them. It’s entirely up to you. If you are among those who provide equal opportunities to women year-round, we thank you.
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