National Women’s History Month/International Women’s Day

As places of employment continue to develop, enact, and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, they should be mindful of women’s empowerment and how it intersects with other protected classes under Title VII.  Women’s empowerment is often defined as promoting women’s sense of self-worth, their ability to determine their own choices, and their right to influence social change for themselves and others.

Since 1987, the United States has recognized March as National Women’s History Month.  National Women’s History Month is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of strong, determined women who paved the way for those of us in the present and future to follow. The celebration mirrors International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women, first celebrated on March 8, 1911.

A few key pioneer women who created the basis for National Women’s History Month include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist and women's rights activist known for her 1851 speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention called “Ain’t I a Woman?” regarding racial inequalities of her time.
  • Susan B. Anthony, an icon in the woman’s suffrage movement during 1892-1900, who paved the way for what would become the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution ratified in 1920, giving women the right to vote.  The Nineteenth Amendment was then known as the "Susan B. Anthony Amendment" in honor of her work.
  • Rosa Parks, arguably one of the most famous, influential women of the civil rights movement who refused to give up her seat to a white male on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955.  Leaders of the local African American community then organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Rosa Parks’ symbol of dignity and strength during the racial segregation era resulted in the United States Supreme Court ruling that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
  • Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, was nominated by Former President Ronald Reagan in 1981.  Justice O'Connor promoted women's rights and interests during her two decades on the bench and has continued those efforts through her advocacy of education and civic engagement for young people.

The National Women’s History Alliance designates a yearly theme for National Women’s History Month. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme for 2022 is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has enhanced the struggles many women face while striving for a work-life balance.  Employers and employees should collaborate towards effective solutions that may ease some of the ill effects the pandemic has placed on women and the multi-dimensional workforce as a whole.  Collaboration during unprecedented times sparked the advancement of movements taught in history classes today.  While celebrating those who came before us, let us not forget how we might empower those among us.

Authored by Caitlin A. Donahue, Esq., an associate in Cipriani & Werner’s Lancaster, PA office and a member of the firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.