An Equal World Is an Enabled World
March 8th was International Women’s Day. This year’s theme celebrated women’s achievements and encouraged us all to raise awareness of gender bias and take action to ensure a world of equality.
The concept of gender bias stands out most for me. These days we talk about gender differently than ever before. We’ve begun to talk about gender as a spectrum and even refer to it as non-binary. While this is a complex subject, for a different day and a deeper discussion, I thought it important to acknowledge this. We all discover more when we open to possibilities that are outside of our taught traditions and historical roles.
The gender bias we are focusing on for International Women’s Day is that which has oppressed women for millennia and comes from long-ingrained stereotypes. We know that girls aren’t bad at math, although that is a story many of us heard growing up. We know it is healthy for boys to cry—heck, for all of us to have a good cry every so often. Yet, in the U.S. and other countries, gender bias still exists in our workplaces, classrooms, and overall society.
A bias tells a story about another person based not on truth but on prejudices and generalizations. The stories we tell ourselves and each other matter. The challenge is for us to reflect on the stories we tell and hear about women, and make sure they are based on truth and experience. Thankfully, we know that women are amazing leaders and geniuses who have given us life-changing formulas for technology, life-saving medicines for human health, and more.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, in 1903, for physics. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from medical school in the U.S. in 1849. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first black woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S. in 1864. Alice Hamilton, founder of industrial medicine in the U.S., had to deal with discrimination and gender bias. And women had to fight for the right to vote, finally achieving it in 1920. Katherine Johnson, who worked at NASA and its predecessor NACA from 1953 to 1986, was one of the finest mathematical minds the country has ever seen. How about that for girls not being good at math?
We still have a long way to go to an equal world. But we travel this journey together. Share your stories and those of the amazing women who have gone before us. The strength, courage, and tenacity it takes to overcome a stereotype or prejudice is immense, especially when it is part of the structure of our society. Encourage your sisters to rise above the noise and shine their light every chance you get. Keep up the good work of encouraging one another to never allow a stereotype to hold down the brightness and talent of another human being. Recognize that it may be scary to do something outside of our supposed role in society, and instead, shine bright so that everyone might see the gifts we bring to the world.