A Look Into Celebrating International Women’s Day Today and Everyday
Women are strong and capable of amazing things. As a mom or mama-to-be, you know this on a deep level. From a fundamental, biological level, women are powerful.
That power extends into society, where women have made significant contributions throughout history and around the world. We hear these stories especially during Women’s History Month, when names like Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, Margaret Thatcher, and Amelia Earhart are thrust back to the forefront of public admiration and appreciation.
On International Women’s Day, that recognition swells to include all women and both the difference women today are making in the world as well as the work we continue to do to advance the cause of gender parity.
What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day, commemorated every year on March 8, is a worldwide celebration of “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women,” while also promoting women’s equality, according to the International Women’s Day website.
The day was first celebrated in 1911, when more than a million women and men participated in rallies across Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland promoting women’s rights to “work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.” After losing steam with the decreased popularity of feminism, the movement gained renewed momentum in 2001, when the International Women’s Day website was established to promote the day, with a goal of re-energizing the celebration and visibility of women’s achievements.
One way the International Women’s Day platform has reignited the spark around celebrating women each March 8 is through an annual campaign and theme. This year’s theme is “Choose to Challenge,” a rally cry to “call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world.”
The “Choose to Challenge” theme – noted on social media through the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge – may resonate especially strongly for mothers. Whether you stay at home with your children, work full time, or something in between, chances are you’ve experienced some form of bias or stereotype against you.
A staggering 18.2% of working moms “feel that being a parent hurts their reputation at work,” according to the HubSpot Career Blog, and a study shared in the Harvard Business Review found that employers are more likely to interview someone who has been laid off than someone re-entering the workplace after taking the same amount of time to be a stay-at-home mom. The findings in the latter study suggest employers take issue with a parent’s decision to prioritize family over work.
Bias that exists for working mothers even has a name: maternal wall bias. According to Science Magazine, this happens when colleagues see mothers (including mothers-to-be) as “less competent and less committed to their jobs.” Moms in the workplace may be overlooked for projects or promotions due to a perceived lack of time or motivation, or they may be penalized for missing work because of their kids. On the flip side, maternal wall bias can also manifest as guilt or judgment around working instead of staying home with your kids.
While not the only bias or exclusivity faced by women today, bias around motherhood is certainly present and worthy of the International Women’s Day call to #ChooseToChallenge. This is an opportunity to recognize that being a mother is hard, we’re all trying to do what’s best for ourselves and our families, and we all could use some support and encouragement to balance whatever combination of circumstances we have in our lives.
Celebrating women and mothers
So how can we, as mothers, empower and lift each other up? How can we celebrate women’s achievements and promote equality and inclusivity?
From an official standpoint, the International Women’s Day website offers free resources for groups who want to plan events or campaigns, opportunities to fundraise for female-focused charities, and information for companies looking to promote women’s equality in the workplace.
But you don’t have to plan an official event to celebrate International Women’s Day. There are a number of simple, everyday ways we can all empower and support the women (especially mothers) in our lives:
- Offer words of support. We all just want our efforts to be acknowledged, especially when we feel like it’s not enough. Reassure the women in your life that they’re doing a great job and that the thought really does count for a lot.
- Share your appreciation. Thank the women in your life for the support they’ve given you. Did they offer you helpful advice? Did they take your kids off your hands for a few hours so you could take care of yourself? Did they encourage you when you really needed it? Showing our appreciation for the little things we do to take care of each other is a simple way to acknowledge and empower each other.
- See them beyond their motherhood. How many of us have occasionally felt lost in our roles as moms? Recognize the women in your life for who they are outside of that. They may be amazing mothers to their children (and you may completely admire them for it) but asking them about their own work or hobbies from time to time is a great way to remind them how very much they’re capable of.
- Spend time with them. Quality time with a good friend with whom you can openly share your triumphs and frustrations is so important to feeling well-rounded and secure as a woman.
- Help them with an ongoing project. Offer to watch their children for a few hours so they have time or lend a hand with the work itself. (Either option assumes you can do so safely.)
- Send them food. We all know how exhausting it can be to work a full day (whether that’s at an office or as a stay-at-home mom) and then cook dinner. There are services that allow you to send prepared meals, or you can drop off a home-cooked meal at their door.
- Share each other’s achievements! We have so many channels for communication at our disposal. Give a shout-out to a friend/sister/aunt who did something you admire.
International Women’s Day may be March 8, but we challenge you to build each other up every day! We’re all in this together, mamas!
International Women’s Day: About International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day: History of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day: IWD 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge
HubSpot Careers Blog: Working Moms: The Difference Between Inclusivity and “Special Treatment”
Harvard Business Review: Stay-at-Home Moms Are Half as Likely to Get a Job Interview as Moms Who Got Laid Off
Science Magazine: Working mothers face a ‘wall’ of bias – but there are ways to push back