March 8 marks the celebration of International Women’s Day—a global day recognizing and advancing the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and gender equality. This year’s theme—#BreakTheBias—challenges individuals to imagine a different world, free of bias, discrimination and sterotypes; a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.
To better understand the mission of International Women’s Day and some of the key issues in the movement for gender equity, The Daily reached out to Angela Clark-Taylor, executive director of Case Western Reserve University’s Flora Stone Mather Center for Women.
Here, Clark-Taylor shares five historic and contemporary issues about the movement to advance gender equity. While these points are a good start to understanding the barriers and opportunities, Clark-Taylor encourages the university community to keep learning more and to get involved in programs with the Mather Center this month.
1. Gender equality is treating everyone the same. Gender equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful.
In October 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration issued the first-ever national gender strategy to advance the full participation of all genders. The strategy adopts an intersectional approach focused on equity—or giving everyone what they need to be successful. An intersectional approach considers those who may be facing forms of bias and discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and other intersecting identities, and the challenges these individuals face. This approach also acknowledges that gender equity goes far beyond equal pay and representation in the workplace, and addresses issues like gender-based violence, access to healthcare and involvement in social, civic and political life.
2. The words we use matter.
Language reflects and shapes how we see the world. You’ve probably noticed a shift in the last several decades away from gendered language—such as exclusively male terms, like policeman or mailman—to more inclusive terms that better reflect our lived experiences. More recently, the growing recognition of the fluidity of gender has caused us to again evaluate our use of gendered language and how it influences equality. By taking care to not imply that one sex or gender is the norm, we can all take a small but significant step in reducing gender sterotypes and promoting equality.
3. Gender equity is an issue for women in higher education
A vast gender gap still exists at the top research universities in the United States. The disparity can be seen at all levels, but is especially prominent in leadership roles. Because women have outnumbered men as students on college campuses since the 1970s and now earn the majority of doctorates, there’s no good excuse for these gaps. A recent report by the Mather Center on gender equity at CWRU found encouraging leadership and growth in women deans, faculty and students, but there is still much work to do—particularly for women of color. We must be able to first see where we are to know how far we have come and how far we need to go.
4. The fight for gender equity includes trans women.
A recent analysis by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) showed that transgender women—who hold both a marginalized gender and gender identity—report earning approximately 60 cents for every dollar the typical U.S. worker earns. Additionally, Black trans women who have led the fight for both gender equity and LGBTQ rights are disproportionately affected by violence. Another HRC report showed that at least 50 trans and gender non-conforming people were killed in 2021, making it the deadliest year for this population in the U.S. on record. We will not have equality until the most marginalized among us have equality—we must stand with Black trans women to support their safety and personhood.
5. Gender equity helps men too.
Historically, gender equity has been categorized as primarily a “women’s issue,” sending the message that women are the only ones who will benefit from a more equal society. However, the movement supports men in achieving gender equity as well. Rigid gender stereotypes don’t just affect women—the book For the Love of Men by journalist Liz Plank explores this topic, and how masculinity can limit men from being their full selves. Men need to view themselves as partners in the fight for gender equity, and recognize that the movement’s success is dependent on the support of both men and women.