In 1973, Congress designated August 26 as Women's Equality Day in commemoration of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Women's Equality Day also emphasizes continued efforts toward full gender equality in the U.S.
In 2021, issues such as affordable child care, discrimination, domestic violence, access to health care, workplace inequality, and more still affect the advancement of women and girls. And after a year-plus of navigating the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's more important than ever to advocate for women's rights and equal treatment in all areas of society.
Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women
COVID-19 is an ongoing global challenge that has impacted nearly every facet of daily life. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, some 3.5 million working mothers left the workforce last spring. Black, Hispanic, and single mothers were most impacted by this exodus. With children out of school, childcare and domestic labor fell largely on women.
Women are also disproportionately represented in industries that have been most impacted by the pandemic, such as hospitality, retail, food service, and education, according to a report from McKinsey. Another McKinsey report notes that, as of 2019, more than 60% of people entering the healthcare industry were women, and women accounted for 80% of all nurses. These women make up a large portion of the medical professionals who have been on the front lines of the pandemic, saving countless lives and witnessing ongoing devastation.
Due to these added stressors, mental health issues like burnout, anxiety, and depression have been exacerbated. As Forbes reported last summer, the number of mothers experiencing maternal depression and anxiety symptoms nearly tripled during the pandemic — and with another year-plus having passed, these statistics are likely no better now.
Of course, all of these consequences vary in severity based on factors such as a person's race, sexuality, disability status, and socioeconomic situation, but it is undeniable that the pandemic has deeply affected women across the country. So how can we stand together to better support and celebrate the women in our lives?
How to Celebrate Women's Equality Day
Though strides toward equality have been made in recent decades, there is still a long way to go. To support these efforts, the United Nations has drafted the following set of Women's Empowerment Principles that it invites all businesses to adopt for the advancement of women in our workplaces, marketplaces, and communities:
- Establish high-level corporate leadership with respect to gender equality.
- Treat all women and men fairly at work; respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination.
- Ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all workers.
- Promote education, training, and professional development for women.
- Implement enterprise development, supply chain, and marketing practices that empower women.
- Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy.
- Measure and publicly report on progress toward achieving gender equality.
On an individual level, donating to women's shelters like Rosie's Place and Women's Lunch Place or to organizations like Women Encouraging Empowerment can support their missions and boost their impact.
Donating your time by volunteering can also be helpful. Seek out your local chapter of the Girl Scouts or Girls Inc. and provide mentorship for young people. Other good options include after-school clubs, library programs, and youth sports teams.
Continue to educate yourself on issues of equality by engaging with resources to deepen your knowledge. For instance, consider taking a virtual tour of the Boston Women's Heritage Trail, which is offered for free on its website. Seek out the work of feminist leaders, activists, and scholars, such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, Jovita Idár, and Judith Butler. The National Women's History Alliance also provides extensive resources on its website, as does the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.
Recognizing when you should advocate for yourself or others in your life can also help create a more equitable environment for women. Making sure colleagues receive proper acknowledgment for their work, dividing labor fairly at home, and standing up against discrimination are all ways you can improve equity within your own life and community.
Creating a Better Future for All
Brighter days are ahead; just look at hard-won advancements like the introduction of the 2019 pay equity bill and more women than ever entering the workforce and gaining positions of leadership.
Underscoring Eastern Bank's commitment for greater representation of women, people of color, and diverse communities in the workplace, women were 67% of our workforce in 2020 and we've matured from a Board comprised mostly of white males 18 years ago to a Board now consisting of approximately 25% women, with Deborah Jackson serving as our Lead Director. In support of the advancement of women and gender pay equity, years ago we began advocating for two gender diversity bills: Senate No. 1879, an Act to ensure more women serve on corporate boards of directors, and H.1660, an Act promoting pay transparency and pipeline advancement.
Women have always faced generational hardships—and many of those challenges have intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic—but throughout it all, women have displayed remarkable resilience. Join us in celebrating Women's Equality Day this year as we continue to work toward a better future for all.
Learn more about how Eastern Bank is championing women's advancement in the workforce and our communities.