Girls and women need more than encouragement. The action required is more than just giving kudos to women of achievement (although we do recognize and appreciate them), or setting up scholarships or internships. It is acknowledging what happens to girls and women while they are trying to navigate their lives and workplaces. It is pointing out inequity. The IWF believes this is the year to call out inequity — consistently. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp highlight some of the problems as women tell their stories of abuse, sexism, harassment, misogyny and fighting the good ol’ boys network. Denials, brush-offs and half-hearted apologies will no longer be accepted by women. Real change — from the bottom to the top and the top to the bottom — must happen now.
As with the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been plenty of time for people to wrap their heads around the need for equality and inclusion. Yet inequities remain – insidious and often deeply-rooted. According to the International Women’s Day website, more than 70 percent of women experience bias at work — yet less than a third of employees recognize bias when they see it. Whether it’s deliberate or unconscious, bias puts up roadblocks that make it harder for women to be educated, get hired, promoted or have similar experiences as men. And the impact of 2020′s COVID-19 disruption worldwide threatens to upend the progress that has been made.
As Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE USA and an IWF-Georgia member says, “Unless we are laser focused on uplifting women’s leadership at every level, we will be marginalizing another generation of women and diminishing our overall capacity for progress. Communities rise when women do.”
The global theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is “Choose to Challenge Gender Inequality.” The International Women’s Forum Georgia Chapter asks that you challenge it everywhere — at work, at home, in school, in healthcare, in government, in business, in entertainment, everywhere you encounter it. In ways big and public, or small and private, challenge gender inequity in ways that matter to you, and to the women in your life.
Belinda Stubblefield is president of the International Women’s Forum - Georgia Chapter. She is vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.