Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Happy International Women's Day!

Also known as International Working Women's Day, this is the first year that I actually payed attention enough to even realize that this day has some significance and has been around since 1906 (Whoa, 110 years of women's days? How is Halmark not capitalizing on this?) when nearly 15,000 American women protested against terrible working conditions, poor compensation and lack of voting rights while marching through the streets of New York City. It's a celebration of the contributions of women to society in the workforce and beyond as well as bringing to light some of the issues that women still face in the today's world.

Each year the International Women's Day takes on a theme ranging from celebrating the past (1996), to Investing in Women and Girls (2008), and so on. Many of the themes don't seem to be entirely surprising and often repeat (such as ending violence against women and girls) but this year really caught my attention.

The theme this year is "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality".

Epic poster for International Women's
Day in Germany, 1914
As put forth by the UN: "The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. The theme will also focus on new commitments under UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights." 

They also list some key targets:
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
It's sometimes hard to remember that inequality is still prevalent throughout much of the world. In my own bubble of a world, I can't say I've necessarily experienced any gender-driven inequality in which I feel very lucky. But I am constantly reminded how few other women there are in my industry, being the only technically-skilled female in my company and my average run in with other techy-ladies can be few and far between. With as much it influences the world, it's kinda amazing how little women actually contribute to something as important and necessary as technology. I mean, think about that... Like, half the population is missing out on having a voice or influence on one of our most rapidly growing industries. Not to mention, studies have shown gender diversity can lead to increased revenues (like whoa, how is that enough of an encouragement to diversify in today's consumer world?).

Reasons have been discussed on repeat for as long as I can remember. And solutions seem to follow a "chicken" (fix the external problems such as industries, society, etc.) or the "egg" (fix the internal problems such as women's will to work and lead) scenario with opponents and supporters on all sides. And I'm not going to get into which one I think is right. But here's the thing... You, your friends, and even myself are going to be there in 2030. Which means, in one way or another, we can contribute to encouraging this idea of gender equality.

It doesn't have to be much. Honestly, I try to encourage everyone (women, men, and everyone else) to pursue what they want in life regardless if they choose to be stay-at-home parents with devoted hearts or hard-working employees in pursuit of the next challenge. Now, tell me you're a lady interested in tech and I'll be all over why you should be in infosec because I would love to see more women out there hacking away at networks. But I think it's important to respect one's choices of course and I won't hold it against you if you go for web dev or game development or something entirely unrelated to tech. Because that's what equality is all about, right? The freedom and opportunity to do what you want without scrutiny or judgement (I mean, within reason. Like, murder and stuff isn't cool you know).

So, with all that in mind, please join me in helping everyone to be what they want to be and have a Happy International Women's Day.

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