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Commentary: Numbers tell the story on International Women’s Day

Women are making important achievements every day, but more work is needed

It is well documented that when women share parity with men, their families are healthier, their communities are more stable and economic growth advances. This year, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, the Women’s Alliance of Southeastern Massachusetts is letting the numbers tell the story.

112 — The number of years the world has celebrated International Women’s Day. 

Since 1910, the world has observed International Women’s Day on March 8, each year. The day is designated to call attention to the contributions women make to society and to celebrate the accomplishments and path-breaking achievements by women.

This year, more than ever, we need to shout out the accomplishments of women, who in many respects have borne extraordinary responsibilities during the protracted and painful COVID-19 pandemic.

1920 — While many mark the move toward equality when women earned the right to vote in 1920, this effort was not without its inequities.  While Black women were, in theory, awarded the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment, it was not until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that real voting in significant numbers was able to begin.

11.3 million — The number of jobs held by women that were eliminated in 2020 when the pandemic began. At the same time, one in three jobs held by women is designated as essential. Women who are essential workers, often the least well paid, now find themselves in the most dangerous pandemic-related positions. Largely under recognized for their vital societal contributions, women have been on the frontlines long before the pandemic, but especially so since.

80-84 — Under the best of circumstances, overall, a white woman on average earns between 80-84% of a man’s salary when in similar positions. For women of color, the pay gap further demonstrates the inequities, with Latinx women earning 57 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and Black women earning 64 cents.

66 — Two-thirds of all working mothers were bread-winners prior to the pandemic, with more than 41% the primary breadwinners for their families. For women of color, the percentages increase significantly: fully two-thirds of Black women are the sole or primary family earners in their families. Mothers living in low-income families are more than three times as likely to be the sole or primary breadwinners. These numbers illustrate the deep inequities across women’s advancement.

75 — Despite the growing number of working women and data showing that more men now provide care, 75% of primary caregivers for children and elderly parents are women. In addition, women are the ones who make health care decisions for the family and are the ones who seek help for the family, especially during a crisis. Many women are now described as “round-the-clock” workers.

Women Count! And the good news is …

21 — The percentage increase in the number of women-owned businesses has grown over the past five years.

Entrepreneurship often affords women the flexibility to honor equal commitments to family, caretaking and earning an income free of employer constraints.

8 — The number of years that Black women have been obtaining degrees at a consistently higher rate. Young Black women pursuing a college education are on rise. College attainment, directly linked to greater opportunity for economic growth, is a central pathway to self-sufficiency and career opportunity. Though still less than that of white women, educational attainment is steadily increasing for all women of color. When you educate a girl you educate the whole family.

Pioneering victories to be celebrated this day

The United States now has the first woman elected to the vice presidency in our nation’s history. Moreover, she is biracial — both Black and South Asian — and she is the daughter of immigrants.

Just last week, Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated to serve as the first Black woman on the United States Supreme Court.

1  There is one number that perhaps matters the most on this annual day of celebration. One.

Your life of leadership, courage, and hope can shape a family, a community, and a society. We stand on the shoulders of the women who paved the way for our greater opportunity, just as we march forward for those who will follow to shape a world of greater justice for all.

The 2022 theme of International Women’s Day is “Break the Bias.” How do we achieve this goal? It starts with you.

Together we can break the bias that exists in our schools, workplaces, communities, and systems. We must advocate for a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. We need all of us to make this happen.

Today and every day we celebrate the accomplishments of all women.

The Women’s Alliance Southeastern Mass., composed of more than 30 organizations and 80 individuals, works in collaboration to advance greater equity and opportunity for women in our region. We invite you to join us.

If you are interested in learning more and/or joining the Women’s Alliance, please email us at womxnsalliancesema@gmail.com.

Please check out our website and Facebook page:

http:/www.wasema.org

https://www.facebook.com/womensalliancesema

Joanne Murray is executive director of the Women’s Fund SouthCoast. This commentary was written in collaboration with members of the Women’s Alliance of Southeastern Massachusetts Steering Committee.

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