For 23 hours on March 8 (taking into account Daylight Savings time and where it applies), International Women’s Day commenced. As wonderful as it is to remember and pay tribute to the many suffragists, scientists, Olympians and other female achievers, the message of International Women’s Day should be one of looking at what still needs to be done for women’s rights. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to promote the action that will ultimately achieve gender equality in the United States and across the world.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, women are less likely to get internships and the work experience needed to be successful in the post-graduate and professional workforce. The issue of unequal pay is also making a huge impact on professional women – making between 77 to 84 percent of what men earn. Moreover, women in the low-income labor bracket double the amount of men. Even women with degrees from Harvard Business School are less likely to be senior managers than their male counterparts.
The widely-debated issue of abortion and the limited access to birth control also has a negative affect on financial inequality for women. One study concluded that unwanted pregnancies diminish female participation in labor by up to 25 percent. Although countries such as Norway, Finland and France have over 30 percent of female corporate board members, other countries such as the United States, Germany and Australia have under 20 percent, and Japan, less than five percent. This happens despite research that concludes that women are less likely to make risky investments.
It is important to remember on International Women’s Day that no arena of American (and global) life has been more ineffective in regards to gender inequality than the world of politics. Only 22 percent of senators are women, and this same statistic applies to parliaments worldwide. Women make up only 17 percent of government ministries worldwide, as well.
Senior officials at the United Nations (UN) spent International Women’s Day acknowledging the major gaps across the globe in the fight for gender equality. In 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was created as a guideline for achieving women’s rights. Also, starting March 9, in order to address the important issues of gender equality beyond International Women’s Day, the UN will begin the two-week long Commission on the Status of Women session.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement on International Women’s Day regarding the current status of women. “With girls as young as seven not only targeted but used as weapons by violent extremists, it would be easy to lose heart about the value of international gatherings,” he said. Mr. Ban continued his statement, addressing the violence against women trying to practice basic rights and freedoms in countries such as Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq and Syria. The horrors of the international sex slave trade was also a major concern for the UN on International Women’s Day.
Even women living in non-warring places still face the terrors of domestic abuse, sexual assault and female genital mutilation. Executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Miambo-Ngcoka, seconded Mr. Ban’s statement, adding that, “not one country has achieved equality.” She expressed disappointment on this International Women’s Day with the slow progress of women’s rights since the Beijing Declaration in less developed countries.
At the U.S. headquarters of the UN, New York City, the Clinton foundation, founded by former president Bill Clinton, along with the help of advertisement agency, Drago5, made an impact on International Women’s Day with the ad campaign “Not There”. Over 40 women in various ads and posters around New York City, including Rosie the Riveter and the Mona Lisa, were cut out on International Women’s Day, reiterating the idea that women are “not there” yet in the battle against gender discrimination. The project was chosen to go into effect on International Women’s Day 2015 to commemorate Hilary Rodham Clinton’s speech on women’s rights at the UN conference in Beijing, when the Declaration and Platform for Action was written. The Clinton Foundation also used social media and online video to spread their message. The website for “Not There” received over 100,000 views by late evening on International Women’s Day.
The population of the world, both men and women, is responsible for making the goals and aspirations associated with International Women’s Day a reality, using them to promote action and justice in the fight for gender equality. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on how the global community can improve the quality of life for women everywhere.
By Danielle Kral
Photo by David Stanley Flickr Page- Flickr License