Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the vital role of women in our national history. Many of the planned 2020 celebrations for this month were postponed due to COVID-19, so last year’s theme of women’s suffrage has been extended into 2021, giving everyone extra time to consider how far we’ve come.
New Year, Old Ceilings
There are plenty of women leaders and business pioneers we could showcase. But in a year where empathetic and supportive company cultures are the new gold standard, we wanted to put the spotlight on the historical barriers and glass ceilings that are still holding women back, and that have only been compounded by the pandemic and economic downturn.
Big Topics for 2021
2021 seems far removed from the days when women organized to demand the right to vote, but many of the systemic issues women’s suffrage aimed to address still persist in some shape or form today, proving that history is not behind us—we’re living it. Here are some of the big topics we’re thinking of for Women’s History Month in 2021:
- COVID-19 Unemployment – Working women suffered unprecedented setbacks in 2020, experiencing disproportionate job losses and ballooning caretaking responsibilities. Women are three times more likely as men to quit their jobs to take care of a family member, and 1 in 4 women are considering “downshifting” their jobs in 2021 because of increased responsibilities related to caregiving. Women – especially women of color – shoulder much of the pandemic burden at home.
- Gender Pay Gap – Even after everything that transpired in 2020, women are earning 82 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to recent figures. Women in the c-suite are not immune either. ABC News found in 2021 that even highly paid senior executive women earn only around 85 cents for every man’s dollar. This is rather shameful and not to mention technically illegal according to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, yet it continues.
- Sexual Harassment – Studies published as recently as February 2021 conclude that women still, to this day, routinely encounter gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment on the job. Indeed, a quick survey of your own employees may uncover that it’s a more common occurrence than most people realize. Objectifying and excluding women at work is another technically illegal behavior that has no excuse or place in an empathetic culture.
None of this makes sense in a business environment that is all about promoting empathy in 2021. Women excel at empathy as a matter of scientific fact – in 2019 UCLA researchers observed considerably more empathetic brain activity in women when observing others in pain compared to their male counterparts. It’s foolish to undervalue any person, and we’ll go further and say it’s especially foolish to undervalue women in 2021.
Women’s History Month Persisting in a Pandemic
The pressure of a global pandemic revealed many realities of our society that were uncomfortable to face all at once. However, gender discrimination, disproportionate caretaking, and doing the same work for less pay have been a reality for working women since well before the industrial revolution. Women’s History Month 2021 is an opportune time to put these issues front and center and consider how we can all be more supportive and understanding of a long (and still ongoing) history of suffrage.