In 1978, the school district of Sonoma County in California dedicated a week to women’s history based around International Women’s Day, March 8.
In 1987, Ronald Reagan declared the month of March to be National Women’s History Month in order to “recognize and salute women’s contributions to society.”
This recognition comes 140 years after the first women’s convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y. Since then, women have made tremendous progress in terms of voting rights, workplace discrimination, serving on the Supreme Court and owning businesses.
There is a theme every year and this year’s is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” These are women who “facing stark inequalities in the workplace [such as] lower wages, poor working conditions and limited opportunities, they fought to make the workplace a less hostile environment for women,” according to the National Women’s History Project.
Among them are Norma Yaeger, the first woman allowed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1930 and Kate Mullaney, who organized the first all-women labor union in 1864.
Just 20 years ago, there were no female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, according to the Pew Research Center. In January 2015, Pew counted 26 women – 5.2 percent – serving as CEOs of such companies. Some of this success comes directly from the levels of education between men and women. 37 percent of women ages 25-29 have a bachelors degree, compared with men at 30 percent.
In a study by the American Association for University Women (AAUW), they found that despite the growth in education, women in the United States still only make about 80 percent of what men make. The number is even lower for minorities, again according to the AAUW.
While women have made significant progress and their accomplishments are inspiring, there is more work that needs to be done in the United States and beyond.
But the world is much larger than the U.S. People should not forget to look to their counterparts in other countries.
In some ways, women in places like Afghanistan and Rwanda are years behind the U.S. in the struggle for equal rights.
Just last year in Afghanistan, women were prevented from voting by the Taliban.This is something women might not think about in our country because it does not pertain to us, but sadly this is true in other parts of the world and something needs to be done about it.
One thing that could help is the involvement of the U.S. in progressing women’s rights in other countries.
And while there are many things that do not yet have solutions, the month of March helps remind people to honor women who have succeeded and who are still fighting for their rights.