Happy International Women’s day! The UN has declared this year’s theme “Be Bold for Change.” Historically, this day has always been deeply rooted in bold change as women come together seeking equality.
In 1909, New York experienced the first women’s strike with the garment union. It was the first time we came together to flex our feminine muscles and it helped us realize our collective power. In the 108 years since that first unified stand, we have significantly decreased the gender gap. As a united sisterhood, we have won the right to vote, are about half of the workforce, and now earn a higher percentage of college degrees than men, among other things.
Margaret Fuller, Susan Anthony, Millicent Fawcett, and Malala Yousafzai are often remembered today for bravely fighting for women’s right. Let us not neglect the everyday heroes right in front of us. Change is rarely made by a single person, but rather a collaboration of several people sharing the same vision. There are many women who quietly buck society’s stereotypical ideals to carve out their own life’s definition. I have been humbled to call many of these women my family and friends.
One friend works full-time, volunteers, runs a cheer gym in the evening, and also cares for her family. My sister has paved her own path in life traveling the world, collecting experiences, immersing herself into different cultures, understanding humanity on a level deeper than most.
There is one trailblazer that stands out in my mind more than any other. More than 29 years ago she was one of the first women to become an electrician and join the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) union. She did not set out to break into the boys club, but rather to follow in the footsteps of her father and grandfather. Cheryl is also my mom.
Mom waited tables full-time while attending trade school. It took years of sacrifice and hard work, but she did it because she knew it would provide financial security for her family. As a woman, she endured hazing and sexism as men tried to prove she was not capable of doing the job. To their dismay, she overcame every obstacle they threw at her and she prevails as a competent, talented electrician today. Proudly, she is part of the three percent of women in the electrical trade.
The history books will not likely record their stories, but it is these women, and women like them, who push beyond the boundaries, who continue to close the gender equality gap. While there is still work to be done (the U.S. rates 28th out of 145 countries in an annual world ranking of equality for women), today we celebrate how far we have come and the brave women who have helped propel us forward.
Which women inspire you? Do you know any everyday heroes?
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