Why Do We Need International Women’s Day?

I am going to ask you all a very important question: Why do we need an International Women’s Day? Women comprise over half of the people in the world, so why do we get our own day as if we were a special subset of the population? Half of the population does not make us a special interest. So why this special celebration, just for women? Isn’t the whole “women thing” solved and so 1970s? These are questions that seem to come up every year when I, or others, write about it. When talking about women’s rights and equality, particularly in the United States, so many people, too many people, are quick to say, “Quit your whining!” But on this special day, please hear me out.

Despite being half of the population, women are half of precious else. Half the political leaders? Nope. Half of corporate executives? Forget it. Half of the decision makers in pop culture? Not even close. But I’m not being entirely fair. Women do comprise over half of the world’s population living in extreme poverty. Women are well over half of the victims of domestic abuse, violence, physical assault, and rape, and women represent a full two thirds of the 775 million illiterate adults in the world. Not exactly statistics worth celebrating. To be clear, this is not about having men be half of those horrible statistics, it is about making a world better for all. It is time to end any framing that suggests that when women gain, men fall back. “Women’s Issues are Human Rights Issues.”

There is some good news, some great news in fact, in that women are increasingly holders of financial and economic clout. We are reaching a tipping point where the combination of women’s consumer purchasing power, investment power, and financial power could accelerate positive change in ways previously unimaginable. But we are not doing it yet. A soon to be released report of global high net worth women by the Center for Talent Innovation is going to help spark the debate. Our first report (Women Moving Millions), will be released on September 18th, and it will connect the endless research with compelling stories, and include a big call to action. Women, men, all of us, have such power to use our financial clout in ways that support our values and support access and opportunity for all.

Which brings me back to my original question: Why do we need an International Women’s Day? Well, we need it because when this initiative began over 100 years ago, nearly every woman in every country in the world was marginalized and granted few rights, including the right to vote. Because despite the great progress of the past 100 years, women in every country in the world are still far from achieving true gender equality. Because the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, “Equality for Women is Progress for All” invites everyone to embrace that a world that is better for women is better for everyone. But above all else, we need an International Women’s Day because we are women. We have stood up for our rights against overwhelming odds, and we will continue to stand up until the idea of an International Women’s Day is obsolete. Now that will truly be something to celebrate.

One thought on “Why Do We Need International Women’s Day?

  1. Jacki – now that you are in Utah let me share a few facts about the state of women and girls here:

    – Utah has by far the largest gap in the nation between male and female college-graduation rates – a full 6.0 percentage points. New Jersey is next highest gap at 2.7 percentage points. The national average is a mere 1.3 percentage points.
    – Utah had the fourth largest wage gap in the nation in 2008. On average, Utah women made 69 cents to every male dollar percent of annual male earnings. Nationally it is 78 cents. Full-time male workers make a median of $45,000 – women make $31,200.
    – Utah has one of the lowest rates of women owned businesses in the US. Salt Lake County ranked dead last among the 50 most-populous counties in the nation, for its percentage of women-owned businesses in 2007.
    – At the same time, a higher percentage of Utah women work outside the home than the national average, including a majority of mothers of Utah preschool children. And we all know how hard it is for women to find and afford safe child care and early education.
    – Utah women are more likely to marry, divorce and remarry than their national counterparts. These divorces often cause poverty.
    – More than 1 in 4 female-headed households in Utah lived in poverty in 2009. 1 in 8 Utah children live in poverty.
    – There is approximately one domestic violence-related homicide each month in Utah. One out of three adult homicides are domestic violence related.
    – More Utah women enter drug treatment for methamphetamine than alcohol, and female meth addicts outnumber males in public treatment programs.

    We’ve started a Womens Giving Circle to make supporting women and girls in Utah fun and easy and to help get the word out about the great things that women are doing to support their sisters. And we need our own source of support for the programs that are addressing these issues.

    In 2007, a year of record giving, only 2% of all the money from Utah’s top 50 foundations went to organizations serving women and girls.

    We all have a role to play – and as women we know that we can do more together than apart, and that our collective wisdom as well as our collected assets can make a real impact.

    This is the start of something important, and on behalf of the Community Foundation of Utah, we are thrilled to be playing a supportive role.

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