International Women’s Day is NOT Just for Chicks

Image for post
Image for post

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 to commemorate the movement for women’s rights. For me, each anniversary feels bittersweet — it’s another year lost, a few steps forward, and too many steps back.

In 2016, the World Economic Forum estimated that at current rates, it would take the world another 118 years — or until 2133 — to close the economic gap entirely? That means neither me, nor my daughters, or maybe not even my granddaughters will earn as much as the men in the same room doing the same work?

Out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a small handful do not have national paid parental leave laws: New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific island nations, and the United States? That some women go back to work before they’ve even healed from childbirth for fear of losing their jobs? Or simply quit to find precious time with their new baby?

The first five years of a child’s life are fundamentally important? That they are the foundation that shapes children’s future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievements at school, in the family, in the community, and in life in general?

Surely you can see that women who have generous paid maternity leave have a greater opportunity to serve their children, their families, their communities, and the ripple effect it creates at work and for the economy?

Surely you can see what it means to the child to have bonding time with mom, developing time, nurturing time with their mother, and the ripple effect it has on the child’s entire life?

Surely you can see that talented, hard-working, ambitious women deserve the same wages as men, and the ripple effect of the great personal and familial cost when forced to choose between family and career?

There’s a sensational TED talk from 2015 that outlines the economic and household costs of falling behind on this front and to say the US is behind is an understatement. We’re an embarrassment. We are letting families and our future down.

And to add insult to injury, let’s say the mother (or father) takes advantage of her/his company’s maternity leave or opts out for a few years to provide their children a strong foundation by being present in years 0–5. First, we penalize women for getting pregnant, it’s called pregnancy bias, then we undermine their efforts to return to the workforce by penalizing them for taking leave.

No wait, first we penalize women for being women by simply not paying them their due, then we penalize them for getting pregnant, then we penalize them for taking leave. Three strikes and you’re out, right?

Why are women’s issues so hard to fix? Every single one of you reading this has a mother. Some of you have sisters or daughters too. Why can’t we see, envision, appreciate the possibilities of a world with equal rights?

Take a minute to imagine a world where all women and girls thrive, with the same rights and access and potential realized that the most privileged of men have. Imagine the advancements, contributions, and progress. It would heal nations and transform the planet.

If you can’t see it or don’t understand why it matters, get out of the way.

And when it comes to policies, laws, and leadership, we have excuses for lack of progress. We remain underrepresented and legislated against. What society in their right minds holds it against a mother or father for prioritizing their family first? Why don’t we do more to protect women and children, to value families? Why do we feel justified rolling back support for those who need it most?

What’s wrong with us? Why do we stand for it? Is it the same reasons we tolerate other injustices, because the problems seem so big, so systemic, so insurmountable that we don’t know how to create widespread change? Or is it that getting involved personally is too risky? Is it that our lives are good enough? Is the standard of living enough for enough of us that we’re passively content? Apathetic and lazy? Something worse?

It’s not just men that are the problem. Not all women see the problem and women cannot always count on other women. As girls, teens, women, and moms, we are often conditioned to compete — compete on looks, talents, boob size, hair, ability to snag the right husband, pull off the right image, or raise the right kids.

We know how to idolize women but not advocate for each other. We know how to play up our best assets but not connect meaningfully with other women to lift each other up.

We misunderstand women’s intentions and judge their actions, their behaviors, and their bodies because we can’t accept their complexity. It’s too much of a contrast to men’s simplicity. We don’t value women’s instincts because we assume their non-male priorities make them weak, that their values are inferior to men’s.

For years, I didn’t get it. Growing up, I felt empowered to do everything my brothers did and I thought that meant equality and opportunity. When I didn’t “win”, wasn’t selected, or couldn’t compete, I didn’t think anything of it. I took responsibility and internalized my faults and/or my worthiness. I assumed a level-playing field. I think many of us did (and do). I didn’t understand how systemic, subtle, and subversive the problems were and are, that 40 years later we’d still be fighting the same battles, having the same conversations, still trying to prove something.

My perspective used to be so small, my experiences narrow, and now I know. I’ve lived enough years now with the harsh realities of being a woman to know first-hand the biases and struggles that remain. And thank God my experiences were tolerable, that they did not destroy me. That’s the world we live in, for some women, being a woman is so risky, so threatening, so impossible, that some will not survive their experiences with it. Imagine that for someone you love.

After 40 years, it still catches me off guard when I observe someone I know, care about, or even love, perfectly good people in so many ways, undermine, diminish, or negate women’s opinions, accomplishments, and values. I am still surprised when the people around them, women even, tolerate it, promote it, or ignore it. And it happens all the time.

I remember my mom telling me that for her, her sisters, and friends, turning 40 meant no longer being able to ignore the call to make a difference, no longer having the stomach to tolerate injustice. I don’t know if men experience a similar rite of passage, but here I am at 40-something, with my sisters and friends and we all feel that same call, to make a difference, to stop letting it slide, to create change, to live to see progress.

At the same time, as I’ve gotten older, I began to see women for what they truly are, sacred, powerful, multidimensional, intuitive, and capable of more than they know, not weak or dependent or lesser than, or any of the limitations that were fed to me or quietly endorsed over the years. I wasn’t always sure how to value womanhood, to meet women on their own terms, to honor them, to honor myself, to honor our shared journeys, our bodies, choices, or lives.

I didn’t understand that my actions weren’t entirely only my own. I didn’t understand the power of my voice or the impact of my solidarity. I didn’t understand so much. Ignorance is not a defense and I’m embarrassed that it took me this long. I’ve wasted so much time on more frivolous pursuits.

Melinda Gates has pledged $170 million over four years for women’s empowerment worldwide? She knows the power of money in women’s hands can break the cycle of poverty and contribute to GDP.

When a mother has control over her family’s money, her children are 20% more likely to survive?

Women’s issues aren’t just women’s issues, they’re economic issues, family issues, survival issues, social issues, moral issues, future of the species issues. So here we are, at another (or another version of the same) crossroads, a year later. There’s undoubtedly too much to do, so much to fix. There’s too much to fight for and the stakes are impossibly high. What women’s issues are you outraged about — #metoo #timesup #bringbackourgirls? Something else?

If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention. It’s easy to be outraged and not know where to place that energy. Some days it fuels my workouts, some days (like today) my writing, some days my career.

It’s why I started LUXI. It’s a tribute to women, particularly working moms. Being a working mom is impossibly contradictory. It’s doable, of course, all moms do what they must, and affording a family today largely demands both parents contribute financially. Still, being a working mom is not ideal. It’s filled with endless hard choices, unsatisfactory exchanges, and heartbreaking moments for mom and for baby.

I can’t give $170 million, but I can use my gifts and live the rest of my life in service of women, mothers, and families. I want to make a difference and I am committed to creating resources — services, experiences, and products — that celebrate mothers and families. My mission is to inspire moms to revel in motherhood, kick ass in their career, anticipate an incredible future, and enjoy a full happy life.

Is it enough? Will it turn into anything? I hope it makes a difference for hundreds of moms, for thousands, or even more. I resolve to do more. Regardless of what I do, inevitably many women will still suffer, still endure impossible obstacles, feel repressed or belittled or worse. I don’t know if I can fix anything, I know it’s important for me to try.

I recently wrote about one idea to help working parents. It was tongue-in-cheek, but also meant to illustrate that the answer is out there, and it’s not so far away. We don’t have to over-complicate the issues, just fix them one by one, to continue to build momentum in our favor. And I’m optimistic. Why? Because I have daughters. I have to be optimistic.

I’m optimistic because of technology too (and I hope to explore this topic further in a future post). I’m optimistic most of all because of women. Women have been resilient and steady for hundreds of years, quietly enduring as they always have, but perhaps now, not quite as quietly resisting. #resist

I’m consistently in awe of the women all around the world creating change, improving lives, and making a difference. (I’m also thrilled about the men who empower, encourage, celebrate, and love these women.) Women are increasingly taking roles, making decisions, and leading lives that serve more than just themselves and their families. They are making a difference in their schools, communities, churches, companies, and more. It feels like times are changing, momentum is shifting, women are initiating profound progress, and I want to be a part of it.

So, yes, let’s absolutely celebrate the progress and good news, but here’s my plea: Please don’t let this go. Let’s not be complacent or forget the very real struggles of women nearby and all over the world today. Right now. Yes, it’s hard to fix and some of it is even harder to face, but we’re all in it together. We all share in the responsibility. Pick your battles. Do what you can, where you can, then do more. Half of the world’s population depends on it.

Written by

Life coach for women. Writer for 29 publications. Happiness, success, productivity, balance, leadership, inspiration. Follow me on Instagram @coachformoms.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store