In honor of International Women’s Day— recognized annually around the world celebrating the achievements of women and raising awareness on equality.
It’s International Women’s Day and yes, there is much to be celebrated. For the first time in 243 years of American history, a woman was inaugurated as Vice President of the United States. Kamala Harris—the first South Asian American and the first Black American vice president—is the highest-ranking woman ever elected in the U.S. government. In her election night speech back in November, Harris vowed, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
When I went away to school for the first time, my mom gifted me with a message similar to Vice President Harris’ in a mini book entitled, “You Are a Girl Who Can Do Anything.” Throughout my time at school, the words of this book stuck with me. Every time someone told me I couldn’t, I did—including being elected to serve as the student body president alongside the first all-female executive in the university’s history. Now, almost a year later, this book sits on my desk at my first full-time job in the nation’s capital as I watch pieces of the glass ceiling come crashing down.
In our country of possibilities, women are continually making progress. Twelve of President Joe Biden’s nominations for Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions were women. Twenty-seven percent of all members of the 117th Congress are women—the highest percentage in U.S. history and a fifty percent increase over the past ten years.
But despite progress in some of the most visible and prominent spaces in our country, gender disparities still exist. Women in the U.S. who work full-time throughout the year are typically paid only 82 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make, resulting in $10,157 less per year in median earnings. The wage gap translates into an annual median loss of $24,110 for Black women, $29,098 for Latinas, $24,656 for Native American women, and $8,401 for Asian women, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
The pandemic has also disproportionately affected women compared to men. More than 2.5 million women left the labor force between February 2020 and January of this year, compared to 1.8 million men. Although there has been a decrease in unemployment rates, many women are faced with obstacles returning to work; for instance, finding child care for their children and making sure that their families are staying healthy and safe.
Despite the challenges, women are resilient, strong and powerful. History has shown that in spite of setbacks, we have the capability to overcome. While this pandemic has created challenges for many women, we are persevering as we always have. From the front lines where many of us are treating and vaccinating our country’s most vulnerable patients, to our homes where many are balancing remote work and homeschooling sessions, this month is a month to celebrate our resiliency.
To all of the women out there, this is your reminder, you are a girl that can do anything.