Wednesday, April 1, 2015

IWD 2015- Make it Happen!

March 8th is International Women’s Day! The United Nations recognizes it as “…a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

While we should be doing that EVERYDAY, this day in particular serves as a globally recognized platform to celebrate the achievements of women both present and past.

International Women’s Day started in North America and Europe as a result of the labor movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1909, the first National Women’s Day was observed in New York City to recognize the garment industry workers that had taken to the streets to protest poor working conditions. Subsequently in 1911, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated. Millions of men and women gathered across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to rally for women’s rights, most notably the right to vote, hold public office and not be discriminated against at work.

Over a century later, International Women’s Day is still globally revered. It is now an official holiday in several countries. The growing movement continues to address women’s rights, albeit at a different magnitude, but with the same overarching goal: equality. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Make It Happen”. It’s goal being to encourage effective action for advancing and recognizing women worldwide.

Yet, considering that women are generally paid lower wages than their male counterparts, are underrepresented in business and politics and universally have less access to education and healthcare and are more prone to being victims of violence, can we really say that we are making it happen? Presumptively, we can. And we should.

More than just a call for action, International Women’s Day urges us to commemorate the strides that we have made over the years. And there have been many strides. International trends show that the economic power of women is continuously increasing to match the economic power of men. As is common knowledge, countries with more gender equality have better overall economic growth. There is no better place to witness this phenomenon then here in our own backyard.

By the year 2028, it is projected that the average American woman will out-earn the average American man. The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) reports that women-owned businesses generate a total economic impact of over $3 trillion. In addition to earning revenue, these businesses help the economy by providing employment for 7.5 million American workers.

Seemingly, since an estimated 60.5% Latinas will be part of the U.S. workforce in 2020, there has been a nearly 200% increase in Latina-owned business and Latina business owners have a start-up rate of six times the national average, it is very likely that Latinas will play a sizable role in attaining that widely sought economic power.

Now there’s a reason to celebrate! But with the many opportunities that undoubtedly lie ahead of us, there is a lot more to make happen.

Originally published in LatinTrends Magazine, March 2015

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