Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity, according to internationalwomensday.com.
First observed in 1911, a time of tremendous population growth and the rise of radical ideologies in the industrialized world, IWD “is a collective day of global celebration,” belonging to no single government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” said Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and social activist. It’s about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like, wherever you are.
Today also is my 71st birthday, and as I reflect back over my own life, a handful of personal experiences stand out that attest to women’s progress, at least in the workplace:
During my eighth month of pregnancy late in 1981, I was laid off as a feature writer for the New York Daily News, because the paper was in financial straits. When I went on interviews for new jobs, I had to hide my pregnant belly because no one would have hired a pregnant woman 36 years ago. (Luckily, I had gained only about 20 pounds, so it was easy to “cover up” the pregnancy, literally and figuratively.)
The male president of one of the companies where I worked, as well as many of his male executives, made daily sexual innuendos to female employees.
When my husband and I decided he’d stay home to be with our young son, rather than hire one awful “nanny” after another, men would look askance at him, and me. My salary was greater than his, and besides, I loved my job; he didn’t. Didn’t matter. Women were supposed to stay home with the kids.
Another boss held it against me for being “too emotional.” He, in the meantime, returned drunk from lunch most every day; was completely unqualified to hold his job (he was later fired), and publicly (and loudly) berated employees. Never mind all that. Emotion impacts judgement, men had decided.
The day I was promoted to a big job, one of my male employees officiously announced to me that I must never call him at home on the weekends or in the evenings to discuss work.
We have a ways to go before women achieve true gender parity, but based on the way women are raising their voices and coming together today–in politics, entertainment, sports, and elsewhere– we’re making great strides towards the finish line.