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Home / Expert Opinion / GRAWA President’s Message: Celebrating women’s strides, and looking to the future

GRAWA President’s Message: Celebrating women’s strides, and looking to the future

Melanie Wolk

Melanie Wolk

Late last month, it was brought to my attention that March 8 was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme was “Equality for women is progress for all.”

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s. Its inception began when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights in 1908. The next year, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States. In 1911, International Women’s Day was celebrated in multiple countries with more than one million men and women attending rallies for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, hold public office and end discrimination.

For those history buffs, these rallies were held one week before the “Triangle Fire” in New York City that took more than 140 lives of working women and brought significant attention to the cause.

Since the early 1900s, International Women’s Day has become an official holiday in countries such as Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam, just to name a few. Not only has the day spread across international borders, but many global companies are now actively contributing to International Women’s Day by supporting community events and creating their own internal events.

These events range from political rallies to business conferences to networking events and fashion shows. International Women’s Day continues to be reflective of the times and celebrates the progress women have made in the workplace and society while addressing the advancements that still need to made in areas such as equal pay, education, health and violence against women.

Every year, the United Nations selects a theme, to appropriately address the issues facing women. This year’s theme, “Equality for women is progress for all,” is meant to challenge the status quo for women’s equality and continue vigilance in inspiring positive change.

Specifically, this year’s theme emphasizes how gender equality, empowerment of women, full enjoyment of human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to economic and social development. In short, this year’s theme stresses the vital role of women as agents of development.

So the question becomes: Can a single day really empower women and is there still a need for an International Women’s Day? I personally view this day, and Women’s History Month, as an opportunity to appreciate the freedom and opportunities that women have and to continue discussing those issues that have not yet been resolved, not only within our local community, but also globally.

While most barriers have been overcome by women in the United States in obtaining a secondary education, poverty continues to remain a constant obstacle for equal access to secondary education. Since the majority of the world’s 1.3 billion poor are women, they fail to obtain a secondary education at a disproportionate rate. Yet, statistics show that for every one percentile growth in female secondary schooling results in a .03 percent growth in the economy. Thus, education of women is essential to economic and social development.

Locally, we must continue to recognize that women have not obtained equal pay. As discussed in a prior article, according to the United Nations, on average, women receive between 30 and 40 percent less pay than men doing the same work, Additionally, women are still underrepresented as partners in law firms and as top executives. While there are many intelligent and driven women in these roles, they are always outnumbered by their male counterparts.

Because women are still facing workplace inequality, we as a society need days like International Women’s Day to remind us of the vast strides we have made over the last hundred years and the future steps needed to ensure equality is received in all areas.

My monthly update on Redmond has nothing but good news this time. We have now exceeded 30 days since we made any trips to a medical provider. Work life and life in general is much more manageable when everyone in the household is well. We also got our first tooth, which has made sleeping through the night a much more attainable goal. There are several more teeth ready to make their appearance, which has resulted in Redmond putting anything and everything in his mouth, including items much too large to fit, like the corner of the front door or the leg of a chair.

He can now wave, clap and stand on his own. Both Redmond and I have good friends in his daycare class, which makes keeping up with all the changes and growth much more enjoyable. Finally, as I finish this article it is near blizzard conditions out, which means that we have a few more days of stuffing him, like a sausage, into a slightly too small snowsuit.

Melanie S. Wolk is special counsel with the law firm of Goldberg Segalla, LLP, and is the 31st president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys.