It wasn’t so long ago that we couldn’t drive, vote or wear pants. Tomorrow on International Women’s Day, March 8, we look both backward and forward in celebrating women’s economic, political, artistic and social achievements around the world. It’s also a time for respect, appreciation and love towards women and girls.
In the early 1900s, women’s oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. They began observing National Women’s Day to commemorate, and by 1911 it became an international movement. It is now an official day-off holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Madagascar, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia. In many of these countries, men honor their mothers, wives, girlfriends, and colleagues, often with flowers and small gifts. Children often honor their mothers and grandmothers.
We’ve come a long way (baby!), with female prime ministers, CEOs, professional athletes, race car drivers, astronauts and professors. Women seek higher education at a greater percentage than men. Women can blend family life and work. Yet women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, struggle with access to healthcare and basic education in the developing world, and are at greater risk of violence.
Want to get learn more, be inspired, honor and support women, and celebrate? Here are 16+ ideas to get you going:
1. Start your day dancing! My choice: “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé. Make a play list of girl power music for future jam sessions.
2. Watch COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg’s enlightening TEDWomen talk. She speaks frankly about taking your seat at the table and not to check out of your career even before you leave. She hopes for a world where her young daughter can be uber-successful, but liked too. Sheryl’s book Leaning In comes out next week and I look forward to reading it. Let me know if you want to discuss it.
3. The United States even designates the whole month of March as ‘Women’s History Month.’ This year’s theme is “Women Inspiring Innovation through Inspiration.” See www.NWHP.org for more info.
4. According to Natalie MacNeil in Forbes.com, entrepreneurship is the new women’s movement. It may be a sideline to your job for now, but who knows where it could take you. Female-focused incubators and events, like the ones offered by Women 2.0 and Ladies Who Launch, help women entrepreneurs to build out networks, gain confidence, and learn from successful women. Seek mentorship and business guidance from men and women.
5. Read Half The Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This will widen your eyes and change your perspective on life.
6. Instead of girls’ night out, create your own good old girls club. Talk about money, politics, and business.
7. Invest in another woman’s business. Women tend to be very generous to philanthropic organizations, but may lack the trust and sometimes the background to invest in business. Geri Stengel of Forbes.com reports on the Pipeline Fellowship, which educates women on how to be angel investors. At the end of the course, these women invest in a socially responsible woman-led company. Her other options: Bad Girl Ventures and SoMoLend, Ohio micro-finance organizations, which raise donations to fund the best women entrepreneurs. They train women entrepreneurs who then compete for a $25,000 low-interest loan. Think about doing something similar in your own community, or check out www.KickStarter.com to support a creative woman’s project.
8. Call your mom or grandmother or both. How did they experience being a woman as they grew up? Tell her how much she matters to you.
9. Connect with a high school girl and offer to give career advice.
10. Get in touch with new Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Make sure she knows that you are informed, involved and aware.
11. Check in with a female member of your state legislature. How can you help her lead?
12. Check out your local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) center school. West Fargo Principal Michelle Weber is one of my local heroes for her work with middle-schoolers. All kids thrive under her leadership, and the girls shine in ways that don’t always work in a regular school. Carrie Leopold of the North Dakota State College of Science is also helping girls through Great Plains Girls Collaborative and many other STEM-like programs.
13. Champion a cause that you are passionate about. International Women’s Day was born of activism, not sentimentality. Help the YWCA shelter or Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Give your gently-loved wardrobe to Dress for Success. Donate to Deb Dawson’s project in southern Sudan and help build schools for orphaned girls at www.AfricanSoulAmericanHeart.com. Or give a $25 micro-loan to a global entrepreneur at www.Kiva.org.
14. Read about the girl effect. Empowering girls through education and economic resources improves the lives of all community members. See more at www.GirlEffect.org.
15. Look through the FM Chamber of Commerce Directory for woman-owned businesses. Send them a note and some praise.
16. Be kind to yourself. You are deserving of celebration too, as you help make the future bright, safe, equal and rewarding for all!