While this past Monday we celebrated International Women’s Day, it also coincidentally coincided with the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s start off by saying how the heck is it March again already? It’s like we never left March in the first place. Luckily, the whole month of March celebrates Women’s History. So, since it still feels like we’ve been living in March 2020 for the last year, let’s take the opportunity to reflect on what women have been up to these last few months.
Spread Too Thin
In September, four times as many women left the U.S. workforce as men, according to NPR. While there are a number of reasons why this has happened, the financials are only half the story. Women lost a disproportionate number of jobs, partly because women comprise a majority of the service and retail businesses such as restaurants and hotels, two areas that have been most impacted by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, a lot of women took over the responsibilities of remote schooling, struggling to help their children learn, but also caring for elderly parents and family members. Someone has to supervise the learning, do the cooking, do the cleaning. During that time, many women had to make painful career choices and some saw no other option but to reduce their working hours or stop working altogether.
Now, before you start hating your husband for stereotypically putting you in this position, the gender pay gap played a crucial role when couples had to make an economic decision on how to move forward. Unfortunately, because women typically earn 82 cents for every dollar a man makes, they are the ones who had to take the step back just because that’s financially the best option.
Meanwhile, for women fortunate enough to stay employed during the pandemic, things weren’t exactly a walk in the park, either. Women make up the bulk of the frontline healthcare workers and primary caregivers, and as a result, they were, and continue to be under enormous stress from being at the forefront of the virus. Also, mothers working from home with school-aged children were put in a situation where they had to juggle being a CEO and a teacher while effectively meeting the needs of their employer and their families. According to the International Labour Organization, women are still performing 76.2% of total hours of unpaid care work, more than three times as much as men.
Looking on the Bright Side
While we can’t deny that 2020 took a toll on every aspect of our lives, it showed us that women can still do great things amidst the chaos.
Breaking Barriers and Ceilings
During this year’s Women’s History Month, we commemorate a new historic achievement. Women have had a rough year, and Kamala Harris knew it. So, she just obliterated the glass ceiling and made history by becoming the first woman, African American, and person of Asian descent as vice president of the United States. (Yas queen!) Her win is both inspiring and transformational. The significance of this cannot be emphasized enough. As an African American woman of Asian descent, Kamala Harris brings both cultural and gender equality to one of the most powerful leadership roles in the country. Her successes represent further evidence of how women are just as, if not more than, capable of having a voice and making it heard. She iconically proclaimed “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
Mobilizing a Movement
You can’t look back at 2020 without highlighting the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world. BLM was founded back in 2013 by three women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who killed an unarmed Black teenager, Trayvon Martin. They used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter out of frustration and with help from Opal Tometi, Cullors and Garza built a social media platform to bring together activists online and take action offline. Protests erupted again last year after the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. The movement has since generated momentum and expanded internationally, shedding light on racial injustice. Yes, the movement began with police brutality and extrajudicial killing, but it’s bigger and more comprehensive than just the criminal justice system and policing. It opened the opportunity for our society to talk about racial inequality across housing, education, and health-care, and drove us to not just push back against racism but to be actively anti-racist long after the protests have died down. Tometi, Cullors, and Garza are continuing to transform humanity and their positive impact will be felt through generations to come.
You Are Enough
I understand it may be difficult to not compare yourself to women rising up and making such a positive impact during such unprecedented times. As women, we are very hard on ourselves. Have I been doing enough? Am I making a difference? What can I do better? The thing is, yes, we should be striving to do better, but the key is to set realistic expectations of our time and of ourselves.
In the last year, we were confronted with uncertainty, anxiety, and even fear. Many women have pushed themselves to the brink by wearing unfamiliar hats, or a stack of hats at once in some cases. Whether they’re studying from home, looking after kids, or working a job, they are also mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, wives, and best friends. The pandemic has put unnecessary pressure on us to perform at an unobtainable state of productivity and perfection. As a result, many feel like they are falling short in one or many areas of their life. If there’s one lesson you should take away from this is to let go of this idea of ‘perfection’ and be proud of yourself. Take a step back and reflect on how resilient you have been through these last 12 treacherous months. You are doing great, so give yourself the credit you deserve! You are making a difference to someone in your family, in your friendships, or in your workplace.
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