Celebrating Women’s History Month: In and Outside of the Workplace. Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Date: Mar 18, 2022
Author: Patricia Pope

Women’s History Month is an excellent time to recognize all of the contributions that your women-identifying employees make to the workplace, and to communicate your ongoing commitment to gender equity and continuous efforts to create an inclusive workplace for everyone, regardless of gender.  At Pope Consulting, we are especially grateful for all of the women who fought so hard for Women’s Rights for over 100 years, and those who continue to do so today.

Why Do We Celebrate Women’s History Month?

Women’s History Month is an observance of women’s contributions to culture and society, despite the social disadvantages they have faced throughout history, such as the inability to vote or have their own finances or property, unequal treatment in the eyes of the law, mistreatment in healthcare, and being barred from receiving the same education and opportunities as men.

Many of these forms of discrimination and oppression still occur. Today, women continue to deal with the wage gap, sexual harassment and discrimination/retaliation based upon their gender.

Women’s History Month is a time for us to appreciate what women have accomplished across so many different fields/industries in spite of the adversity they’ve faced over the years.

Such as Rosalind Franklin, who was instrumental in discovering the structure of DNA, but received no credit for her role until after her death. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education who was shot in the head for her activism when she was 15 but survived and became a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.  Greta Thunberg, another 15-year-old teenager, who became a global advocate for Climate Change. And the many accomplishments of amazing athletes like Billie Jean King who fought for pay equity and paved the way for Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. Or Simone Biles, who has won more World Championships than any other woman or man.  And she just turned 25 this month!

Women’s History Month is also a time for everyone to consider how they can continue to make change in light of the challenges that women have encountered and continue to encounter including:

A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that more than 40% of women have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, showing how prevalent this form of bias still is.

There’s also an issue called the motherhood penalty – a pattern where working mothers make less than their male counterparts once they become moms. Taking time to recognize women’s accomplishments can help promote equity within the workplace, which is one of the essential goals of Women’s History Month.

Why Is Women’s History Month in March?

Women’s History Month is in March because it coincides with International Women’s Day, which is March 8th. Though the idea of a “Women’s Day” has existed since the early 1900s, it didn’t receive global recognition until much later. The United Nations made International Women’s Day a globally recognized holiday in 1977.

Another reason why Women’s History Month is in March is likely related to Women’s Suffrage.  In 1913, suffragist Alice Paul organized the first national celebration of International Woman Suffrage Day on March 3rd. In 1917, 33 suffragists who were picketing outside the White House for the right to vote, were arrested and then clubbed, beaten and tortured by guards at a Northern Virginia prison. The Suffragists called Nov. 14, 1917, the “Night of Terror.” This treatment of women actually increased sympathy for women and what they were fighting for. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter extended the celebration of women to include the entire week of March 8th. In 1987, the U.S. Congress officially deemed the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.

Why We Talk About the Pay Gap

Taking time to recognize the achievements of women is important for moving closer to gender equity and equality. Gender equality means that women and women’s rights, opportunities and responsibilities do not depend upon their gender. Gender equity means that women and men are treated fairly according to their needs. Equity has a strong connotation to financial needs, especially today. Equality is the end goal, and equity is the means to get there.

Because of the pay gap and its history of putting women at a disadvantage in accumulating the same level of financial success as men, it is important to have an equitable system where both genders receive equal compensation for the same work.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, women on average make 82 cents for every one dollar that their male coworkers make. The average pay rate is even less for women of color. Black women only make 63 cents and Latina women make 55 cents for every one dollar that their white male counterparts make.  Over the course of a 40-year career, The Center estimates that the average woman will lose $407,760.

What’s more, these numbers don’t reflect educational trends, as women have been earning more college degrees than men since the 1980s. In 2019, women earned more Master’s and Doctoral degrees than men in 7 of 11 Fields of Study.  The four fields where men still have higher representation than women are Business, Physical and Earth Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Sciences. The one with the biggest difference is Engineering, with men’s representation at 64.9% compared to 26.8% for women.  On the other hand, men’s representation is significantly lower in the other seven fields.  For every 100 men who earn a doctorate in Health and Medical Sciences, 363 women do. For Master’s degrees in this field, the gap is even bigger: for every 100 men, 397.5 women.  There are similar disparities for Public Administration and Education.

It’s also important to recognize companies who are leading the way in Pay Equity. For example, in 2021 Sales Force completed their 6th Annual Equal Pay audit. Since it’s first audit, the company has paid out over $18 million dollars to make necessary adjustments. Last year’s audit required that 3.5% of their global workforce receive an adjustment. They’ve also expanded their U.S. audit to examine both race and ethnicity compensation, along with bonuses and promotions. In 2021, Sales Force jumped 50+ spots on the U.S. Fortune 500 list of companies.  Their commitment to Pay Equity appears to be ‘paying off.’

Each Women’s History Month Has a Theme

There is a theme for Women’s History Month every year in the United States to help its celebrators focus on a particular topic like political involvement. For example, the 2021 theme was “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.” Other past themes have included “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment” and “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.”

The theme for 2022 is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” and its focus is “both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history,” according to the National Women’s History Alliance.

International Women’s Day also has a unique theme each year.  This year, the theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow” recognizes the women and young girls across the globe who have been leaders in climate change by focusing on adaptation, mitigation and response.

The 19th Amendment Only Gave White Women the Right to Vote

The efforts of women protestors and suffragists from 1909 to 1920 helped initiate the passage of the 19th Amendment. While this was a step in the right direction, the amendment excluded many people. For example, Native American women weren’t awarded the right to vote until 1924.

Other groups including Black, Latina and Asian American women couldn’t vote until decades later. Black women were effectively blocked from voting until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many Latinas, Asian Americans and Native American women secured further protection of their voting rights after the passing of the 1975 extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Acknowledging this shortcoming in American history is important going forward to prevent gender and racial discrimination and advance gender equality in the workplace.

How To Celebrate Women’s History Month in the Workplace

Here are some ways you can get everyone at work to celebrate Women’s History Month:

Host a Workshop or Discussion Groups

You can show video clips and have small groups discuss gender-related topics.  The consultants at Pope can provide speakers and trainers for gender-related topics, like ‘Gender Dynamics’ or provide a Team Inclusion Profile® for your leadership team to determine if women are differently included.

Celebrate the Accomplishments of Women at Your Workplace

Women’s History Month is the perfect time to give a shout out to female coworkers and to acknowledge their significant achievements. Lifting up your female coworkers is a great way to create role models for younger women who will follow in their footsteps.

Encourage Intersectional Conversations

During Women’s History Month, you can encourage intersectional conversations within your workplace. There are many cultural differences between women based on age, race, ethnicity, nationality, as well as educational/socioeconomic and human sexuality backgrounds.

Women To Look Up to During Women’s History Month

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The accomplishments of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed the lives of American women forever. Ginsburg was the second woman to sit on the distinguished bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, serving as an Associate Justice from 1993 to 2020. She is known for her great legacy as a social justice figure and her relentless dedication for women’s rights in the workplace. Throughout her career, Ginsburg defended affirmative action, women’s reproductive freedom, and gay marriage, securing advancement in civil rights for millions of Americans.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is the current COO at Facebook., but her accomplishments go far beyond this feat. She is a renowned author, writing books like Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Her books encourage working women to fulfill their potential as leaders within the workplace. She initiated her “Ban Bossy” campaign in 2014 to help shift the professional world’s perspective of women in leadership positions.

Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns is an inspiration to many young women, as she was the first Black woman to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She has a background in mechanical engineering and has advocated for women to enter STEM fields. She also describes herself as averse to complacency, which is evident in her work with the National Academy Foundation.

Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is a prominent figure on Wall Street. Though she has experienced great professional success, she is most memorable for her efforts to help women succeed in the workforce. She also leads Ellevest, which is a financial services company that aims to educate more women on investing and personal finance, along with allowing professional women to connect with one another.

Patsy Mink

Patsy Mink was the first Asian-American woman, and the first woman from an ethnic minority, to be elected to the United States Congress in 1964. She championed immigrant rights, women’s rights and children’s rights while she worked as a Congresswoman. She was also a staunch advocate of Title IX, which granted women academic and athletic equity in American educational institutions.

Sylvia Riviera

Sylvia Riviera was a pioneering LGBT activist who fought relentlessly for trans rights, and she has often been credited as the person to put the T in LGBT. Riviera worked with Marsha P. Johnson to create STAR, the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. STAR’s main goal was to help house homeless trans youth in New York City. She was an advocate for LGBT people, minorities and the homeless, and she left behind a legacy of always seeking to help others.

 

Learn more about the history of women’s work to achieve equality in the United States: https://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/timeline/womenunite/en/index.html#/