Earlier this week, I spoke on a panel at the Wilson Center on women in politics. We all agreed on the importance of women’s networks as an empowerment tool. Networks can provide women with several kinds of support. First, a network of similar women allows members to share strategies as they face similar situations. An example of this could be an association of women engineers. Second, a network of diverse women can give women the opportunity to meet women that are unlike them in some ways but could be helpful to them financially or politically precisely because of their differences. An example of this kind of network could be a parliamentary women’s caucus. A third kind of network for women could provide the members access to resources they might need but find hard to acquire. This network might include mentoring or a “pitchfest” event where younger entrepreneurs share their business ideas with potential funders. Another is the annual conference put on by EMILY’s List that brings together candidates with journalists and potential donors. Supporting a variety of networks is often a part of a gender equality development program.
April 4 is Equal Pay Day in the United States. On Equal Pay Day, we highlight persistent wage disparities between men and women and mark, roughly, the day when women catch up with what men earned the previous year. Simply put, on average, women worked an extra 90 days this year to catch up with what men earned last year.
March is Women’s History Month. During March, we mark the global progress women and girls have made, evaluate challenges and barriers to that progress, and re-dedicate ourselves to a world where everyone has equal opportunity to succeed and to contribute. During March, we celebrate the multitude of achievements of those who have come before us, both famous and not so, and who have had an impact on our world. The month of March asks us to learn our history, meet those who have shaped our opportunities, and understand where we are in the long game of women’s equality.
As I wrote in early November, I cannot help but to think of the many women and men who I have stood by, learned from and worked with over the past 20+ years. From my time as an advocate and working in U.S. politics, to the many women who are so brave to think about running for office in their countries as well as those women and girls not involved in public life but just working every day to make their lives better for their families and communities. I was so proud and scared and thankful on election day.
But, as well all know, things did not turn out as I expected. So I publicly mourned on social media. And you know what happened? There was a lovely outpouring of love and support for me and the work I’ve been doing. I was even inspired! One dear friend wrote, “I have been thinking about you the most through all of this…hang in there. And you know? The next time I say “I’m with Her” I’ll be thinking about you, Susan Markham.”
When I was in middle school, I played on a recreational soccer team. I was incredibly introverted, a bookworm and rather slow. Though I preferred “defense” and never got close to the goalposts, I loved soccer, laughing with my teammates, feeling my body’s strength and growing comfortable with myself.
Those couple of seasons of soccer led me to a lifelong love of comradery and competition — a passion I’ve passed along to my own daughter.
I’ve been thinking about these experiences as the Olympic torch burns in Rio de Janeiro.
We know that women and girls are a powerful force for change. And when we put women and girls at the center of development, we can break the cycle of poverty. We can help them delay their marriages, choose the timing and spacing of their pregnancies, access needed services and information, complete their education, and gain the knowledge and skills they need to participate in the economy and in their country’s development.
Yet, all too often gender inequality gets pushed aside because of competing priorities or a lack of resources. People say that gender equality isn’t their area or that gender equality is a “women’s issue.”
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Economic Empowerment
- Empowering Girls
- Gender Equality
- Open Government
- Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
- Sustainable Development Goals