With March now upon us, it’s time to celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, a great way to continue breaking barriers that we started knocking down with Black History Month in February. So let’s explore how Women’s History Month stories can inspire us throughout 2022 and beyond and how this IWD theme brings more awareness to the cause.
What Is Women’s History Month?
During March in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, we celebrate Women’s History Month to commemorate the contributions of women in the past as well as women who are changing society today. The highlight of the month is International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th, part of the women’s rights movement and observed around the world.
Many issues affecting women are raised during Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, including:
Abuse and violence against women
This special month began as Women’s History Day in 1978. With advocacy from Gerda Lerner, historian and author, and the National Women’s History Alliance, the holiday developed into a whole month of recognition by 1987. Other countries also took up the charge over time.
The idea behind the celebration is to increase public awareness, champion women by challenging gender-based hurdles in our culture and motivate women of all ages by identifying examples of female heroes throughout history who can serve as role models.
What Is the Theme of International Women’s Day in 2022?
Each year, International Women’s Day chooses a theme around which the celebration is planned. While this is technically a one-day affair, people can and should recognize this theme throughout Women’s Month 2022 and during the entire year.
The theme for IWD 2022 is “Break the Bias.” To spread the message of this year’s theme, participants use #BreakTheBias hashtags and take photos of themselves with their arms crossed in an “X” over their bodies – the physical symbol of the theme.
What does “Break the Bias” mean?
Imagine a world where genders are equal.
The ideal world would be free of discrimination, bias, and stereotypes.
We want a world that is diverse, inclusive of all, and equitable for everyone.
Differences should be valued and celebrated.
Women’s equality can be achieved by genders working together.
With the strides many of us have made in the last few decades, it may seem like this focus isn’t really needed anymore. However, research shows otherwise, and many countries outside the USA and Canada have worse instances of bias against women. Examples of this bias include:
Men being paid more than women for the same jobs
Unfair or illegal interview questions (“Do you plan to have children?”)
Internal promotions going more to men
Glass ceilings that limit career advancement
Men being the decision-makers in business
Women excluded from social activities with coworkers
Disproportionate homemaking responsibilities
Inequitable reward structures (bonuses and commission)
Women are not able to speak their minds or offer ideas due to criticism
Illegal terminations for standing up for women’s rights
These issues exist even in female-dominated work environments. According to the United Nations Development Programme, nearly 90 percent of both men and women around the world are prejudiced against women. Globally, this is demonstrated through the biases listed above, as well as the underrepresentation of women in government, few female CEOs, women working more hours than men, and women receiving less education than men. Moreover, in the most repressed countries, women may not be educated and may be forbidden from doing things like driving.
Every day, we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions. By being cognizant of this, we can acknowledge and confront the biases in our communities, workplaces, and educational institutions. It’s not enough to merely know bias exists because we all hold several forms of prejudices; it is a natural part of being human. By being willing to call it out every time we witness it or experience it and encouraging others to do so, we can also start to rewire the way we think. This is a universal goal for all genders, races, and humans. Similar to racism, it takes the one traditionally in power to stand up and break the bias. When men recognize inequalities and celebrate women’s noteworthy achievements, that acknowledgment goes a long way in repairing and building a future where women are valued.
How Can We Build Today on Female Pioneers in History?
Fortunately, we have a long, long list of women who can be our motivators and mentors during Women’s History Month and throughout our lives. No single woman has been the most powerful or most influential in history. Instead, these women built their accomplishments on the women who came before them and extended the ladder to those who came after. Remember, the guiding philosophy here is that we can all make a difference together.
If you’re searching for women to rouse and encourage you, here are some examples below from the last few hundred years. You’ll notice many of these brave women overlap with women we’ve proclaimed during Black History Month, and they’ve had to overcome both gender and racial barriers.
Harriet Tubman was a political activist and abolitionist who fought slavery. She escaped slavery herself and conducted multiple missions to bring others to freedom using the Underground Railroad. Fittingly, Harriet Tubman’s birthday is March 10th.
Born in Poland, Marie Curie was a scientist who discovered radium and polonium (chemical elements) and used her discoveries about radioactivity to create an early X-ray machine. She was the first woman to win two Nobel Prizes in different disciplines, for physics and for chemistry, a record that stands today. However, she had to fight gender discrimination throughout her entire career.
Famed poet, writer, and civil activist, Maya Angelou experienced extreme racial prejudice during her life, especially in her childhood. She also survived assault and trauma. Her literary works explored themes of sexual assault, racism, literacy, and discrimination and inspired many other writers.
Known best for her famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, 1851, Sojourner Truth was separated from her family and sold as an enslaved person at just nine years old. She eventually escaped slavery and became an advocate for women’s rights, prison reform, and racial equality.
The youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai grew up in Pakistan. The Taliban took over her village and banned girls from attending school. When Yousafzai spoke out about the importance of education for women, she was shot in the head by an angry gunman. She survived the attack and moved to the UK to study and continue her activism.
Women’s suffrage wasn’t only a struggle in the United States. Emmeline Pankhurst fought for women’s right to vote in Britain. She founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903, long before women could head to the ballot box.
The question is, who will you connect with, and why will their story push you to be braver, bolder or simply more you?
Fighting discrimination and forging new, more inclusive paths starts with open dialogue, particularly when demystifying something as intangible as unconscious bias. Tough Convos is here to help you confront bias in all its forms that take away from your company culture, your employee productivity and the morale needed to be innovative and creative. To break the biases at your workplace, nonprofit group, or school, we can help you uncover the hidden reasons that keep you from being inclusive. Call us at 1 (858) 876-8176 to learn more, or reach out online to let us know how we can assist you.