What Students Should Know About International Women’s Day
Since 1911 International Women’s Day has served as a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Around the world, companies, organizations, organized groups, and more capitalize on this day to talk about the issues and obstacles still hindering gender equality. Some of the missions that International Women’s Day focuses on include championing women forging tech innovations; equality for athletes; inclusive workspaces; supporting women entrepreneurs; empowering women through healthcare; and increasing visibility for women creatives. These sectors are just a few focus areas. Read on for more about this year’s theme for International Women’s Day and what’s happening around the world. Acknowledge and celebrate the women in your life on this day, and every day.
The theme for 2020 - “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights
"It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent,” said Madeline Albright, former US Secretary of State. Around the world, women are no longer being silent about the inequities they face in the workplace, school or in academic fields, or in the domestic realm. The United Nations is supporting the theme for International Women’s Day this year, which is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.”
Studies show the “Emerging global consensus is that despite some progress, real change has been agonizingly slow for the majority of women and girls in the world,” reports the UNWomen.org. In recent findings, they report, “Not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality. Multiple obstacles remain unchanged in law and in culture. Women and girls continue to be undervalued; they work more and earn less and have fewer choices; and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces.”
International Women’s Day serves as a reminder that efforts cannot cease; working towards gender equality is something that can never be put on the backburner. On March 8, social media and news and media outlets around the world will be working hard to raise awareness using #EachforEqual as the hashtag to help cultivate an international awareness of women’s issues. The #EachforEqual pose --- strike the pose and tag yourself --- is holding out your arms horizontally, one arm on top of the other, facing opposite directions, stacked and making an equal sign.
Events around the world
Wondering how to get involved on March 8th? Events and opportunities to raise awareness for gender equality and to honor the work and lives of women are being scheduled around the world. A full list of opportunities can be found on the International Women’s Day website. Here is a sample of events available in five countries.
If you are studying in England, you will be pleased to find several universities have scheduled events on March 8 to observe and celebrate International Women’s Day. You can go onto your local university website and find the events, discussion sessions, and lectures that appeal the most to you. For example, the University of Liverpool is hosting talks by female professors on subjects such as “Playing to Win for Women,” “Why We Should All Edit Wikipedia,” and “Mind the Gap - a diversity and inclusion seminar.”
Similarly, at the University of Durham staff and students are encouraged to nominate their peers for their “Durham Women Making a Difference” initiative. The university is looking to continue its “Incredible history of women making a difference to the University community as well as the wider, international community in which we work. With our annual Durham Women Making a Difference initiative we collect nominations of staff and students as from their peers. These individuals are staff or students who are nominated for any reason -- everyday kindness, consistent support, meaningful contributions, inspiring work -- irrespective of grade or role.”
Kudos to Germany! On March 8, International Women’s Day, for those residing in Berlin, the government has declared a public holiday. This is now one of 10 public holidays for Germans in the country’s capital. Women in Berlin will be able to use their public holiday however they please. This new addition to public holidays shows how important it is to honor and highlight the work that women do.
Universities in Scotland have lined up many events to help celebrate International Women’s Day. The University of Aberdeen hosted a conference titled 'Inspiring Women - #EachforEqual' on March 6. Held in the King’s Conference Center, “this event aims to not only inspire women, but to empower and encourage women to harness their talents and raise the profile of issues that are central to career development for female colleagues, at both a local and national level.” Keynote speakers included Professor Linley Lord, Pro-Vice Chancellor and President of Curtin University Singapore; Gail Kent, Global Policy Lead at Facebook; and Dr Linda Papadopoulos, one of the most recognizable and well-respected psychologists working in the UK today.
If you find yourself at the University of Edinburgh, don’t miss out on the speaker for the 10th anniversary of its International Women's Day Lectures, Anjali Ramachandran. Her lecture topic is 'The Many Female Faces of the Future', where she will speak of her own career path, barriers and enablers, and her perspectives on gender equality now and in the future.
There is much talk now of women in science, but the Netherlands appointed its first female professor all the way back in 1917, at Utrecht University. Johanna Westerdijk was remembered and honored on March 6th to help celebrate International Women’s Day. Historically, women have been shut out from advancing in many academic fields of study. Westerdijk advanced the field of plant pathology and mycology. “Following her appointment as a professor in 1917, Westerdijk devoted herself to female students. Westerdijk used her standing and position to improve the role women played in science. Whenever there were vacancies in her laboratory, she preferred to hire female students. Westerdijk was a Supervisor to 56 PhD Candidates; almost half of them were women,” reports Utrecht University. Today, women in science continue to make innovations and advances in their fields thanks to trailblazers like Westerdijk.
"To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” said former US senator, Hillary Clinton. It's a heartfelt sentiment from Clinton's election bid concession speech which reminds girls and women around the world to keep working towards their goals.
Events around the country in the US are scheduled to honor women striving in their fields today. If you are studying in the Boston, Massachusetts area consider attending the International Institute of New England’s annual International Women’s Day celebration. This year the event will highlight “the impact refugee and immigrant women have on our economy and our communities" and celebrate “the achievements of women everywhere.”
Notable women scholars and scientists
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. [...] It shouldn't be that women are the exception,” said Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of two women justices serving on the US Supreme Court. On International Women’s Day it’s important to recognize, honor, and highlight the notable women scholars and scientists around the world -- and to honor them in a way that does not make them tokens of exception.
There should be more women scholars and scientists, and more women advancing in all fields of study and career paths. Some notable scholars include many “firsts”. For example, at UCLA the first four women professors were a filmmaker, a botanist, a Shakespeare scholar, and a clinical psychologist. Every one of their paths to success was a long and winding road. And there are far more pioneering women scholars, empowering young women today who continue to strive in often male-dominated fields of study such as engineering and science.
Many female scientists are often overlooked in history books and their contributions have been forgotten. On International Women’s Day, it is important to remember them. For example, Annie Scott Dill Russell Maunder, who studied mathematics and captured daily photographs of the sun. On a trip to India, photographing an eclipse, she was published under her husband’s name, and she only received recognition later on in life.
"Feminism isn't about making women stronger. Women are already strong, it's about changing the way the world perceives that strength,” said G. D. Anderson, an Australian writer and activist. No matter how you celebrate on March 8th for International Women’s Day, it’s important to remember you are honoring the lives and work of women around the world. Also, the actions we take today, for gender equality, will have ripple effects for all future generations. The time for change is now!
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S. M. Audsley is a freelance writer and poet who lives and works in Vermont, a small but mighty state in the United States. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast and a lover of potlucks.
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