March 8, 2019: International Women’s Day

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Since 1911, International Women’s Day has been celebrated around the world on March 8. The day recognizes the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women while reminding the world that work still needs to be done to bring about gender equality.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter, highlighting the goal of a gender-balanced future throughout the world. Beyond March 8, the theme will fuel a year-long campaign for collective action.

A day for celebrating women’s progress evolved from a New York City garment workers strike in 1908, when thousands of working women took to the streets to protest working conditions. The following year, a National Women’s Day was established in the United States. This soon became an international event embraced by suffragettes and female labor activists. Unlike other social issues, gender inequality is found in every country around the world.

March 8 has been set aside for International Women’s Day since 1975, designated as International Women’s Year by the United Nations. The day is part of a movement that doesn’t belong to any one group or organization. More than 100 countries are expected to host events to celebrate women. Although March 8 still has not been officially recognized as Women’s Day by the U.S. Congress, it’s a national holiday in China, Cuba and 25 other countries. Events scheduled for the day include rallies, seminars, panel discussions, performances and networking events, all focusing on greater parity between men and women in all spheres of life.

It’s widely reported that working women in the U.S. earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. However, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research recently reported that the gap may actually be much greater, closer to 49 cents per dollar, when a women’s wages are looked at over a 15-year period that takes into account time off for births and child care. Women are almost twice as likely as men to take at least a year off work during their career, which can slow wage growth. Countries with paid leave and affordable childcare help lessen the impact of women’s family responsibilities on their earnings.

Although women have made progress over the past century, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for 2017 shows there is much work to be done. The index ranks 144 countries according to current gender parity, with a score of 1.0 indicating complete equality. Factors considered are the number of women in the workforce, their wages compared to men’s, government representation and health and educational outcomes. No country has earned a score of 1, but Iceland has the most equality with a score of 0.878. The United States holds 49th place with a score of 0.718, while Yemen ranks last with a score of 0.516.

The World Economic Forum also turned to LinkedIn to determine how many women are currently in positions of economic leadership. Across all global industries, women hold less than 50 percent of leadership positions. In some fields, such as energy, mining and manufacturing, women represent fewer than 20 percent of leaders. Their study also found that progress is slow, with the proportion of female leaders growing by only 2 percent in the past decade. According to the forum, women represent half the world’s population and they deserve to enjoy the same health, education and economic benefits as men. Besides the moral imperative for gender parity, treating the genders equally contributes to the economic health of both businesses and countries.
International Women’s Day 2018 and 2017 were the most-talked-about events of the year on Facebook. Both years, International Women’s Day events followed global protests known as the Women’s March that took place in January, including the Women’s March on Washington. On March 8 and the preceding days, marches and demonstrations drew crowds of thousands in major cities around the world, including London, Melbourne, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., while countless smaller events dominated the news in smaller cities.

If you’d like to take part in official International Women’s Day activities, visit and search for events by area. You’ll find conferences, such as the Charleston Women in Industry Day hosted by the Society of Women Engineers, as well as smaller events, such as the International Women’s Day Tea Party in Atlanta for small business owners. Event planners can watch videos about 2018 IWD events and read case studies on the website, and you can register for the International Women’s Day email list and receive updates about Women’s Day news and future events.

We can all do our part to build a gender-balanced world by playing a part in the #BalanceforBetter campaign every March. ■

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