Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to celebrate International Women’s Day?
The very first International Women’s Day was on March 8, 1909 in New York. It was organized by the Socialist Party of America in remembrance of the strike organized by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers union in 1908 for women to get equal pay as men. Since then, March 8 has been marked as International Women’s Day.
Women’s Day was never meant to make women feel special or to celebrate women just because of their gender. Its goal was always to raise awareness about the atrocities some women go through just because of their gender. Over time, this day has also expanded to include a celebration of women’s achievements across the globe. Most importantly, it’s a reminder and a call for action to promote equality between genders. Every year, the day is marked around the world with celebrations, performances, inspirational talks, networking events, conferences, marches and pledges.
Women are half the human race, yet globally many women still lack basic rights and equality. I have met women who don’t have a voice, who are denied basic education, whose aspirations are considered irrelevant in different parts of the world. Studies show that globally, significant work is needed to improve women’s education and healthcare, and to address violence towards women.
From a professional perspective, there is a lot to do to reduce gender discrimination. Even today, a gender pay gap persists across the globe and women are still not present in equal numbers in business, technology or politics. The original aim of International Women’s Day– to achieve full gender equality for women the world – has still not been realized. Women are not necessarily better than men, and certainly not worse than men. What women aspire to, is to be given a fair and equal opportunity and to be recognized based on their expertise and competency. In so many industries, women are still undervalued and underestimated.
As per the World Economic Forum report, the gender gap won’t close until 2186!
“All things held equal, with current trends, the overall global gender gap can be closed in 83 years across the 107 countries covered since the inception of the Report—just within the statistical lifetime of baby girls born today. However, the most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic sphere and in health. At the current rate of change, and given the widening economic gender gap since last year, it will not be closed for another 170 years.”
Hence the 2017 theme for International Women’s Day focuses on achieving gender equality in the world of work.
“The world of work is changing, with significant implications for women. On one hand, technological advances and globalization bring unprecedented opportunities for those who can access them. On the other hand, there is growing informality of labour, income inequality and humanitarian crises.”
We are at an exciting moment in history – in the midst of a digital revolution – across so many industries and at massive scale. Digital technology has the potential and power to shift the place for women across the world for better. Companies are already taking steps to proactively monitor and address gender inequality and gender pay gaps. But there is still a lot of work to be done and we will continue celebrating International Women’s Day till we see a world where women have the right to drive, education, equal pay, divorce, and to even be born in every country across the globe.
Lets take the opportunity provided by International Women’s Day this year to reflect on the choices we are making, as individuals and as a community, and on how each one of us can contribute to a more just and equal world. When we complete our work of dismantling the historic unequal rights of women, then we can truly celebrate just being humans together. My hope is that some day we won’t need this special day focused on just women at all!
Beena Ammanath is Board Director at ChickTech, an organization focused on increasing and retaining diversity in tech. She is also an award-winning technology executive leader whose work has shaped the usage of data, analytics and AI at several corporations.
Ammanath is the Vice President of Data Science at General Electric, where she works with leading industrial companies to guide them through their digital transformations. She’s also shaping the future of Computer Scientists via her role on the Industrial Advisory Board at Cal Poly College of Engineering. Previously, she’s held engineering and management positions at international organizations British Telecom, E*trade, Thomson Reuters, Bank of America and Silicon Valley startups.
Awards and accolades include: recognition as one of the top 50 global innovators in data science from the 2016 CIO- Drexel Analytics 50, named one of 2017 top 8 female analytics experts in Forbes, honored by the San Francisco Business Times as one of 2017’s most influential women in the Bay Area, and winner of the 2016 Super Achiever Woman Leader award given by the World Women’s Leadership Congress in acknowledgement of her dedication to supporting diversity and being a role model to several young women in tech.