Cal Rotaract has had a female President since 2016. Berkeley Rotary also has a female President this year (Tina Etcheverry). But, did you know that women were not allowed to join Rotary until 1987 after the US Supreme Court voted that Rotary clubs could not discriminate against members because of their gender (Celebrating Women in Rotary in District 5280)? Did you know that Sylvia Whitlock was the first woman Rotary Club President (Celebrating Women in Rotary in District 5280)? Did you know that Esther Johnson was the first woman Rotarian in District 5280 (Celebrating Women in Rotary in District 5280)?
Women’s rights and independence have always been a struggle in establishing equality and eligibility. Today, many women enjoy the privilege of serving in Rotary, setting new records, and raising the organization into its current praise and respect. But only because of the sacrifices and the courage of persistent women before them who fought for a seat at the Rotary table.
Despite Rotary’s hesitance and delayed efforts in allowing women to serve in Rotary, today there are over 200,000 female Rotarians compared to the mere 20,000 in the 1990s (Rotary.org). The United States is also the country with the highest number of female Rotarians in the world since the 1990s, according to the author of The Rotarian.
It was entrance to society, politics, and business, like this that served as the motivation for women around the world to fuel the idea of International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a globally acclaimed day, March 8th, that has been recognized since the early 1900s and celebrates the achievements and breakthroughs of women in sociocultural, political, and economic realms (IWD website). This day carries the history of the women’s equality movement that arose in the 20th century along with a modern day call to action to continue to strive for gender equality, specifically by addressing and “accelerating gender parity” (IWD website). The World Economic Form’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report currently estimates that gender pay gap will be closed in 217 years! (The Guardian). Can you imagine how far away that is? That maybe your 3rd or 4th generation could experience a world where men and women are paid equally? But even that reality is uncertain.
So, this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #PressforProgress, the idea that we need to stand united, press forward in our progress for gender parity, and encourage our communities to create a culture of being gender inclusive (IWD website). We need to keep our persistence steady, our voices loud, and our motivations strong to achieve the gender equality in the workplace and to transform society to value both men and women equally.
Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Interactors are known to #PressforProgress through their various service events, international projects, and year-round advocacy. But having read all this, you might be asking yourself, what can we do this International Women’s Day to support the cause and #PressforProgress?
Here are 10 actions you can take to show your support for the #PressforProgress movement:
- Commit to a gender equality mindset and choose your own action
- Share photos of your #PressforProgress commitment with these selfie cards on social media
- Plan an International Women’s Day event at your school & here’s a how-to to get you started
- Publish your female-focused events on the IWD’s free platform to gain some attention
- Read news about IWD 2018 from around the world
- Watch the International Women’s Day videos
- Check out the exclusive IWD Reading List for ages 15+
- Send submissions for IWD’s Best Practice Competition
- Wear purple to show your support for women around the world publicly
- Appreciate the women in your life and celebrate their achievements this year
*All resources derived from internationalwomensday.com
Comment below with your plans for International Women’s Day 2018 and who your favorite female role models are (both in and out of Rotary)!