Today is International Women’s Day and, while we don’t get the day off work, it actually seems rather fitting that we don’t. As professional Gen Y women, we take being a part of America’s public workforce for granted. But a mere fifty years ago, the career opportunities we have now simply did not exist.
In 1963, newspapers were dividing help-wanted ads into separate categories for men and women and it was perfectly legal for employers to offer positions to men only. Several states still granted a husband control not only of his wife’s property, but also of her earnings. If they existed, those earnings were an average of 40 percent less than a man’s. This was the year that Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, and the Equal Pay Act was passed.
We’ve come a long way, baby. Today, we have trailblazing female role models who are running Fortune 500 companies, leading countries, and presiding on the Supreme Court. The U.S. military’s ban on women in combat has been formally lifted and even the Augusta National Golf Club started admitting women.
Does this mean men and women now face an even playing field? Absolutely not. We’re massively underrepresented in both Congress and the boardroom, and still make make $0.80 for every dollar a man makes, to name just a few disparities. There is still work to be done and it’s on us to do it.
While Gen Y women may not attach the same level of significance to International Woman’s Day as Baby Boomers did when the U.N. first made it official in 1975, no woman is an island. Today, let’s take a moment to recognize that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and remember that our unprecedented opportunities come with a responsibility to pay it forward.
If you’re looking for ways to celebrate International Women’s Day, organizations in New York City are hosting everything from film screenings to bellydancing parties. Check out the full list of events in New York and other cities here. You can also join in virtually on Twitter by following @WomensDay with #womensday and @UN_Women with #1woman.
What are you most grateful for on International Women’s Day? What do you hope to change for the future?