Which are substantial.
Women are awesome and have been for centuries! Women inspire me. Women’s History Month inspires me. Seriously, it is truly important to recognize the contributions women have always made and that have too often been overlooked, marginalized, or ignored. Just a quick peek at their websites reminds and educates you about the amazing women who have contributed so greatly to our society, here in the U.S. and worldwide. They may be a household name or not, a historical figure, a legendary icon, or a hidden heroine. There are so many women deserving of our attention and thanks for what they have accomplished.
This spotlight is needed, and I am happy to celebrate, but I think it’s also important to remember another goal of these movements – raising awareness about gender equity and the continued work needed to accelerate achieving that goal. Drawing attention to women’s issues was a goal in the 1900s when International Women’s Day began, in the ‘70s when President Carter made Women’s History Month official, and it remains one now – especially now. Conditions for women worldwide are extremely concerning, even dire, despite tremendous progress in many areas. The pandemic has taken a terrible toll. The economic effects on women are so pronounced it is being referred to as a “she-cession” to reflect the sizeable imbalance in job/wage losses for women compared to men.
It’s a daunting challenge to think about how to recover from all of this. While we are excited at the promise of vaccines and the hope for a return to our more usual activities, the devastation is real and widespread, and the damage will take hard work and immense collective effort to fix. Which is why the focus on women’s achievements this month is extra timely. Women’s History Month inspires me despite our current situation. It’s a reminder of our past and ongoing contributions and success can provide comfort and encouragement in this difficult time. They are the proof that we can meet any challenge, overcome any obstacles.
The women we celebrate did not do the things they did so they could be featured on a website someday. They did it because they were brave, curious, intelligent people, because they wanted to provide a better life for themselves and their families, and often simply because it had to be done. Our problems and their problems, in many ways, are not that different – for one thing, plenty of women have faced pandemics before us.
Their example can be our way forward. Just as women in the past fought for justice and equality, so must we. We must continue to work to ensure equal access to education and jobs for young girls and women. We must continue to work for safety and security for us all. Recent events have made the job much harder. We have slipped backward in many areas, but the notable women we honor this month didn’t stop trying and neither can we.
I’m not just inspired by titans of the past. I’m also inspired by and enthusiastic about our ability to recover because of ordinary women. Perhaps uncelebrated would be a better term. The millions of us who get up every day and do what needs to be done. Women who care for, feed, teach, nurse, and protect people day in and day out. Women who create, invent, explore, discover, and solve problems. We work in homes, offices, schools, firehouses, laboratories, boardrooms, governments, and more. We get things done!
I’m inspired everyday by the example of women in my life – my colleagues, our clients, friends, women I know through industry groups and charitable efforts. I think of my mother working two jobs when she and my dad founded ATR, and of my grandmother building a successful business with her husband in Poland before starting over after emigrating to the U.S. I think of their example when I feel frustrated, worried, or just plain tired. I’ve been surrounded by many examples of fortitude, grace and ingenuity in facing recent changes. It keeps me energized, calms my doubts, and makes me confident that we can succeed, working hard together.
I think the best way to honor the achievements and sacrifices of the amazing, accomplished women who helped build our world, is to live and work with the same commitment and spirit. To use their example as a roadmap and their actions as inspiration for how to build on their success. Certainly, women face daunting problems at this moment but that has always been the case, and women have always persisted and persevered. Now is no different. Happy Women’s History Month!