There is a positive trend in the air — a sense that paradigms are shifting and women are rising up and awakening. Evidence of this includes the 5 million people who participated in the historic Women’s March (both in the U.S. and around the world), and the unprecedented number of women signing up to run for office. Women are energized, engaged, and activated.
This International Women’s Day, March 8th, is an opportunity to build on that momentum and solidarity and encourage women to do what this year’s theme proclaims: Be Bold for Change. Even though women have made economic, political, and social strides over the years, there continue to be enormous inequities and challenges that remain for women nationally and globally. Shockingly, in many parts of the world today, girls and women continue to lack economic opportunity, adequate health care and education, and suffer horrific abuses such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, femicide, trafficking, honor killings, and other atrocities. In the U.S. and internationally, women continue to experience many varied forms of oppression, discrimination and violence. (According to the UN, 1 in 3 women across the globe will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.)
As I spotlighted in the interviews I conducted for my book What Will it Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership & Power, and in my new online platform, What Will It Take, women are glaringly underrepresented in positions of leadership across all sectors, whether it’s in politics, the corporate world, the media, or other areas. And in terms of women’s political representation worldwide, the U.S. ranks an embarrassing 104th place in terms of women in national legislatures. Though women are over half the population, we are not adequately represented at the tables of influence where critical decisions are being made. It took years of struggle for women to finally get the right to vote in 1920. How long and what will it take for women to reach full economic, social, and political equality?
The global community is becoming increasingly aware that we will clearly need women’s voices and visions to solve the host of problems facing our planet, and that empowering girls and women is interconnected with other important issues and helps the whole of humanity. Because this isn’t just about women’s equality but also about ensuring diversity of perspective and a reflective democracy. And as men increasingly stand alongside us as they did at the Women’s March, there is a reframing that these are not just "women’s issues" — they are human issues — and that the status of women is intersectional with other forms of oppression. This sense of alignment with men and other marginalized communities is vital to forming a more authentic, effective and powerful movement — one that takes a strong stand for equality, love, and tolerance for all people.
As a freelance journalist and author, I have had the privilege of interviewing some of the world's most renowned and influential women. To celebrate International Women’s Day, I want to share this collection of some of their insights in the hope that their calls to action and wisdom will inspire us to “be bold for change.”