Perhaps more importantly, how can you help? How will you make a difference?
Sure, at first it sounds like a cry from the heyday of the ERA movement, â€œEmpower Women!â€ And only a few short years ago, I would have scoffed at the concept, thinking women didnâ€™t need to fight that fight anymore, that it was overâ€”perhaps even over-fought and we had â€œwonâ€ the battles, but lost the war.
I was wrong.
Even in America, women are still under-represented at top levels of management (less than 1.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women); women are still subject to sexual harassment, gender bias and the â€œglass ceilingâ€ is still very real (ask me how I know!). If we truly have â€œwonâ€ why are we still dealing with issues of abuse? Why do women who take time off to raise a family face hardship when they return to the workforce? Why are women who choose to stay home treated as less than the incredible women they are? Why are women more likely to be interrupted or worse, ignored?
Because, by and large, itâ€™s still a manâ€™s world. And if you look to other parts of the globe, less â€œdevelopedâ€ countries, gender disparity gets even worse. Encouraging and empowering women and girls stateside is the first step in making changes globally as these women step up to lead social change.
The road ahead Â
The YWCA has a terrific website full of helpful information geared to women and addresses issues from racism and hate crimes to violence against women, welfare reform, increasing womenâ€™s income and early childhood education. And thatâ€™s just the tip of the iceberg.
As a society, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were just 20 years agoâ€”yes, weâ€™ve come a long way in empowering women. But thereâ€™s still a long way to go.
If you have any doubts about how far we have yet to travel, take a look at pop culture and musicâ€”where women are routinely degraded and seen as little more than sexual playthings. Still in doubt? Check out average salaries. Youâ€™ll find that women are still making only 76% of what their male counterparts make.
Itâ€™s easy to look at the â€œbig pictureâ€ and get overwhelmed. Itâ€™s easy to be sidelined by thoughts like, â€œBut I canâ€™t do much.â€ Toss that thinking aside. Legislation isnâ€™t the only answerâ€”change has to start in peopleâ€™s hearts and minds, it has to start with the very way people think. And it can start with just one voiceâ€”yours.
Making a DifferenceÂ
Itâ€™s easy to do simple things, little things. And we all know, little things can and do make a difference.
Look to this list of 10 simple ideas to empower womenÂ and use it for ideas and inspiration. Itâ€™s full of seemingly easy things like valuing yourself, learning to assert your voice and opinions, speaking up about sexist jokes and images and calling attention to deceptively â€œperfectâ€ media images.
Open your mind by looking at other points of viewÂ and donâ€™t fall victim to the mistake of dismissing views different from your own, or allowing your body language to give off a negative impression.Â
Bring it home and start your kids off on the right track by monitoring media and choosing toys and activities carefully, and without gender bias of your own, so your son likes gymnastics and your daughter loves Tonka trucksâ€”whatâ€™s the big deal?
Talk to your kids, be honest, and patient and most of all, create an open environment where theyâ€™re free to ask questions, and they know theyâ€™ll get honest answers.Â
In the workplace, watch your language, we all know â€œhoneyâ€ and â€œdarlinâ€™â€ can be degrading, but what about â€œthe girlsâ€ and â€œthe guysâ€ and other seemingly â€œinnocentâ€ words? Donâ€™t laugh at biased jokes and be the one to reach out to everyone.Â
Discover your voice! Take a step out and understand not only how you feel and what you think about issues, but be willing to share your thoughts.Â
If each of us were to make just a few simple changes in our own circle of influence, imagine the greater impact it could have!