For this International Women’s Day, consider becoming an advocate for change, and show just it means to be a woman in this world.
I was not much of an activist when I was younger. It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas or that I didn’t want to support important causes in some way. But I didn’t know where to start, and I was afraid of ruffling feathers. The idea of activism intimidated me. So, I sat on the sidelines — and watched things get worse.
Today, I want to be an advocate for change, because my eyes have been truly opened to a lot more realities about what it means to be a woman in this world, fighting for recognition, equality and sometimes even basic human rights. We can’t just sit on the sidelines and expect things to improve. There are too many ways women are not being seen, represented or treated fairly.
The election in 2016 galvanized me to start more discussions about gender equality. No matter what party you align with, always remember that your rights are so important. What fires me up? We make much less on the dollar than our male peers, especially Latina and African-American women, and we are promoted less frequently to upper-level management positions. Our businesses aren’t being funded; just 2.2 percent of venture capital dollars go to female-founded companies. Worldwide, women are 50 percent of the population, but they account for just one percent of global wealth.
Beyond that, women hold just 23.7 percent of current Congressional positions, and only nine of 50 state governorships. Our reproductive rights are being altered in ways we haven’t considered in decades. There’s even a pink tax on consumer goods created for women, from shavers to ballpoint pens, that costs women an extra $2,000 per year.
These are just some of the things that motivate me — to support female colleagues at work, to raise awareness for women’s issues, to get out to the ballot box, and to honor International Women’s Day this year on Sunday, March 8. If you’re looking to take a few moments and honor the occasion, here are a few ways to start.
Register to vote.
Elected officials are oh-so important when it comes to creating change for women, and you have the opportunity to support the ones of your choosing at the national, state and local levels. It is never too late or too early to register to vote, no matter your age or the time of year (of course, before November would be ideal!). There are state primaries going on right now, in which you may want to cast a vote; head over here to get all the details on voting dates in your state.
There are so many issues out there in which you may want to know more — maybe it’s Venture Capital and entrepreneurship, maybe it’s women’s health, perhaps it’s support for working moms, maybe it’s access to education globally or perhaps it’s even unconscious gender bias. Believe it or not, even women are prone to bias against ourselves; it’s so conditioned within us in certain ways from a young age. Pick just one or two issues, and really do some digging. (If you’re looking for more resources or great books, you are even welcome to email me and ask: email@example.com.) After you know which issues make you want to spur change, there are so many causes that can use your time, funds, or awareness. Check out CareFP for some of the great missions Free People chooses to align with, including Girls Inc.
Ask for the raise, for help, for insight.
Advocating for yourself is one of the most important things we need to learn to do as women. Ask all the questions. Has it been a minute since you felt recognized at work? Ask for the raise you deserve. If you don’t feel you’re fully valued at your current job, start putting out applications elsewhere. Need more people your corner? Email upper-level managers you think are doing awesome things; ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing wisdom (a mentor) or going to bat for you when a new opportunity comes along (a sponsor). Have a friend who’s a vocal advocate for certain issues, maybe the experiences of women of color or gender bias in medicine? Ask her to share her story.
To me, International Women’s Day is not just a day to celebrate women. It’s a day to galvanize women and recognize women. The more we talk, and then do with and for each other, the more we will change the world.
Jenna Birch is a freelance journalist, author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life & Love, and lifestyle expert. Her weekly relationship advice column, PureWow’s ‘Between the Sheets,’ runs every Tuesday. Her work appears in Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, Bustle, Well + Good, Man Repeller, The Washington Post, and more. She is a huge personality-typing nerd, yogi and advocate for chronic pain awareness. She lives for researching and reporting on relationships, mental health, wellness, psychology and happiness, mapping how these subjects intertwine with each person’s unique story.