It may be 2017, but with the current social and political climate, it doesn't always feel that way. Some of the same challenges women face today, are the same ones they faced in the early 1900s. That doesn't mean no progress has happened. Obviously women have made great strides and accomplished monumental things over the year, and should be celebrated. The problem is our progress and rights are currently being threatened, which is why Women's History Month is more important now than ever before.
The whole month of March is dedicated to women's history. Several events will be held around the nation and schools will teach kids about the women pioneers to honor the month. Ideally, while you and your family are celebrating great achievements by women, you'll also be thinking about what else needs to be done. This isn't to sound daunting, because women have a whole lot to really proud about, but women's rights are being attacked and dismantled consistently with the new administration. That means the to-do list is mounting and can't be plowed through by a few passionate people. A collective and communal effort will be needed if change and resistance is to occur.
There are plenty of ways to get involved in creating change for women, but mostly it comes down to donating money and your time to urgent women causes that you really care about. Here are nine urgent women's issues that need attention during Women's History Month and probably for at least a year (that's being generously optimistic).
1. The Gender Pay Gap Is Still A Thing
It's a well-established fact that women get paid less than men overall. Not that I have to say this, but it's not because women are lazy or for lack of ambition. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women face a pay gap in nearly every field and make roughly 80 percent of what men make. And as women age, the gap gets worse. Researchers postulate that the gap could be closed by 2059 if the current rate is followed. And 2059, is their optimistic projection. Women's History Month will remind people that this is unacceptable, and it's time to make some serious changes.
2. Reproductive Rights Are Being Threatened
The implications of preserving women's reproductive rights goes far beyond just birth control and abortion. Not only is protecting women's health the morally right thing to do for their well-being, it is key to keeping women economically stable, as noted on the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) website. Women's reproductive rights and access to affordable healthcare has been repeatedly hammered under the current administration, and it's imperative that these politicians are stopped. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made huge strides for women especially in getting them coverage for critical health services including maternity care, chronic disease management, breastfeeding supplies, and well-woman preventative visits.
The efforts to defund places like Planned Parenthood that provide both healthcare and abortions to those with low incomes, have been relentlessly attacked. Politicians have increasingly made it their mission to stop women from getting abortions, even at the expense of women's health. Roe v. Wade needs to be protected for women needing abortions for any reason. As noted on the NWLC website, "a woman's health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions."
3. Violence Against Women Is Staggering
The commitment to stopping gender-based violence against women should never stop. The numbers are absolutely staggering and disturbing. According to the National Organization of Women, it's estimated that three women are murdered every day, and a third of them in the U.S. are killed by an intimate partner. Additionally, 4.8 million women experience intimate partner abuse, domestic violence, or rape every year. Of the rapes that are reported, researchers estimate that 600 women are raped every day (experts believe that rapes are widely under reported for a number of reasons including stigma and fear of further abuse).
4. Racist And Xenophobic Hate Crimes Are On The Rise
Less than a week after the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times shared a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which said hate crimes had surged six percent in 2015. As reported by the newspaper, crimes including assaults, bombings, threats, property destruction against minorities, women, gays, and others, were recorded. Muslim Americans saw the biggest surge, as reported by the paper, with 257 reports of assaults, attacks on mosques, and other hate crimes. It was the highest number since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Celebrating Women's History Month reminds citizens that it's important to stand up for all groups of people that are discriminated against.
5. Women Are Still Doubling Up On Work At Home
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 20 percent of men report helping out with housework (such as cleaning and doing laundry), while 48 percent of women said the same. Food preparation saw similar dives, 39 percent of men said they helped getting meals ready and cleaning up, and 65 percent of women said they regularly did the food prep.
This is not OK. Women's emotional and physical energy is being expended on unpaid labor, disproportionately to men. As a result, second shift steals time and energy away from women that could be otherwise used to work in a paid capacity or just relax if they want to.
6. There Are Social Barriers To Girls Interested In STEM
A recent study attempted to find out why are there so few women scientists and engineers? According to A 2010 report by the AAUW, young women faced social barriers such as stereotypes and gender bias that blocked their progression into STEM.
Researchers postulated that a female student taking a math test experiences extra cognitive worry and stress related to the stereotype that women aren't good at math. They found that even something seemingly benign, like as a woman taking a test in a room with mostly men, could negatively impact her performance.
Additionally, even if people believe overt gender bias doesn't happen anymore, implicit bias is still very much present in education and can adversely effect women pursuing STEM careers. Girls and women have to see other women in these fields first, to believe it can truly happen for them. Women's History Month remind women that there are women in these careers, and that it's possible, even if progress is slow.
7. There Are Too Few Women In Politics
Women have made great strides in the political arena, but progress is halting. According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), there has been a leveling off of women in state legislator positions and a slight decline among statewide elective offices. Experts noted that the possible reasons for the stagnation of women in politics has to do with two things: recruitment and the fact that women tend to only get into politics at the urging of others. In other words, they don't think on their own to run, someone else talks them into it.
Celebrating the great female politicians during Women's History Month is imperative to showing our young girls that it's possible. Additionally, encouraging young women to run for office and giving them the tools to get there is also important.
8. Women With Disabilities Are Discriminated Against
According to the Women's Health government website, minority women with disabilities face "triple jeopardy." They experience discrimination based on gender, race, and disability. So basically, on top of dealing with any problems with their disability, they also have to cope with economic, social and cultural issues that undoubtedly hurt their health. Disabled women, especially minorities, may not have access to high-quality and affordable health care, and they may not be getting the preventative care they need.