Change is in the Air: International Women’s Day, 2018

Change is in the air. If you watched the 90th Academy Awards on March 4th you may have seen it. Reacting to criticism about lack of diversity, the Oscars made a concerted effort to focus on members of minority groups, including women. Some of this was also clearly in reaction to the #MeToo movement, Times Up, and the elephant not in the room, Harvey Weinstein.

There is a lot yet to accomplish. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the U.S. is lagging behind many other developed nations when it comes to the quality of women’s lives. Business Insider cites a study that ranked the best places for women to live based on the scores of five key attributes: Human rights, gender equality, income equality, progress, and safety. The US is  ranked 16th out of 21 countries examined as the best places for women to live in.

Coming in first is Denmark. With top marks for human rights and gender equality, this progressive Scandinavian country boasts an earnings-related day care system and one of the most flexible parental leave policies in Europe. The Scandinavian model is clearly working in other nations as well, as the next highest-ranking nations are:

  1. Sweden
  2. Norway
  3. The Netherlands
  4. Finland

The next five nations also scored high in terms of gender equality, human rights, and safety for their citizens.

  1. Canada
  2. Switzerland
  3. Australia
  4. New Zealand
  5. Germany

The U.S., at 16, was judged to be highly progressive (8.8), with a decent gender equality score (7.6), but lags well behind in terms of income inequality with a score of 1.4 (out of 10). It won’t be difficult for women to guess on what other measures we fall short: day-care, and parental leave.

Human rights and women’s safety are both serious problems in the United States, as has been underscored by the recent headlines about the dangers of guns, increased racial tension, and the raging opioid epidemic.

Most at risk women in the U.S. are:

  1. Single mothers, women with children working with lower pay and managing home and children.
  2. Women working in industries where there is high-income disparity.
  3. Women who suffer from a lack of national policy to provide contraception to adolescent girls and women.
  4. Women with no access to programs that allow post high school training to improve lifetime wage.
  5. Older women, who have lived with income disparity all their lives and now are entitled to less social security, (which is inadequate for all retirees but especially women.)

But despite these ongoing problems, there is a definite groundswell of action lately by and for women to improve things and fast track change. Many think it took root with the inaugural Women’s March in January, 2017 and showed  signs of intensifying in the last 15 months.

Among the ways women have begun impacting change in their local communities and nationally are:

  1. Finding common ground with other women as they take some time for civic engagement. This decreases social isolation, offers hope for change, and introduces women to other women as they work for common social change.
  2. Fighting for improved wages, including the $15/hour minimum wage.
  3. Running more female candidates and electing women to office at all levels of government.
  4. Finding a passion outside usual social activities like involvement in environmental and climate change issues at the community level.
  5. Getting involved in local schools in a more active way and personal way, like mentoring students and supporting their concerns about the need for change.
  6. Raising their voices with the #MeToo and Times Up movement to bring an end to sexual harassment and abuse.

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