“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish”
The 8th of March is the chosen day to celebrate the women’s achievements throughout history and to further promote gender equality. But why March 8 specifically? And why isn’t International Men’s Day (November 19) as widespread as International Women’s Day? What is really so much important about this day?
The roots of this day can be traced back to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours. A year later, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the US on February 28, in accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. In 1910, a woman called Clara Zetkin (leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She suggested that every country should celebrate women on one day every year to push for their demands. Her voice was heard and in 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19. In 1913, it was decided to transfer IWD to March 8, and it has been celebrated on that day ever since.
The truth is that things have certainly improved for women, but equality with men is still far. In the US, for the first time, in 2011, women made up slightly more than half the workforce. There are (some) high-profile women chief executives. There is a small but increasing number of female presidents. Women are moving into jobs that used to be done by men. But although more women are working, they are often still worse paid than men.
“Women are not making it to the top of any profession in the world.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook
In the 27 member countries of the EU, in April 2013 women accounted for only 16.6% of board members of large publicly listed companies which was up by 5% since October 2010 but then the European commission announced that it was considering “targeted initiatives to get more women into decision-making positions”. Also in EU, one out of four companies still have no women on the board at all, and the target of 40% by 2020 is still a long way off.
Women who are in powerful positions sometimes face a daily barrage of sexist behaviour from men, which in many countries is illegal in the workplace. Not only that but also, 88% of women aged 30-39 see their earnings decline when they have children.
But why, still, after all these years of great efforts and battles, women are still underrated? Why do men keep having the majority of the leadership positions and generally more privileges than women?
From the archaeological and historical times men began to dominate at the time of domestication of plants and animals. When human societies shifted to dependence upon agriculture and pastoralism, men became significant leaders and dominant figures. At times of war, men took leadership roles. Militarism made their brute strength and that natured a brutal instinct that has not extinct even today.
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
Women tend to be satisfied with supportive positions. And this is the main reason why men usually take the leadership roles. During the last decades this stereotype started to change for good. More and more women took leadership roles and became some of the most powerful people in the world. According to Forbes the list with the 25 most powerful women in the world for 2016 starts with the 5 names of: Angela Merkel (Cancellor of Germany), Hillary Clinton (Presidential Candidate of the U.S.), Janet Yellen (Chair, Federal Reserve, U.S.), Melinda Gates (Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S.) and Mary Barra (CEO, General Motors, U.S.).
Should we keep celebrating International Women’s Day?
Sure we do. The road is still long until a full equality between men and women. Although nowadays women hold more leadership positions than ever, although we have rights that women 100 years ago couldn’t even imagine that they could have, the road is still long.
So, women everywhere around the world, keep celebrating, not only in memorial for those women who fought for their and our rights, but for the equality to keep growing.