Why The History of International Women’s Month Matters

While women have come a long way from the belittled, dismissed, and undermined roles to which they were long relegated, International Women’s Month exists to remind us that there is still work to be done.  The objective of IWM is to not claim one gender is superior to another or to dismiss anyone else in the process. Rather, it is to highlight the achievements of women, acknowledge where they have been, and where we, as a society, are going.

International Women’s Month had its beginnings in the early 1900s. 15,000 women marched on the streets of New York to demand shorter working hours, better pay, and the right to vote during a time when the U.S. was industrializing. That march served as a launching pad for so many more marches and fights to come. Women knew even then that they had to find their voices and do whatever it took to be heard in a society that was powered by men.

Here at SparkPR, we pride ourselves on having been founded and still led by women, with 50% of senior leadership is made up of females. When Donna Burke, SparkPR’s Co-Founder built her career at Netscape, she says, “there were many amazing women in tech, but not many were leaders.” This points to the bravery of being a woman in any industry at the time and putting yourself out there to be in a position of power. That is something Burke did, even when she recalls landlords not being keen on renting to women at the time. As a result, more hurdles ensued: “We had to buy our own building when we started the company, and many VCs [venture capitalists] weren’t lending to women.” The point illustrates an experience that is not worthy or begging for a pity party, but one that acknowledges the strength it took to be a woman and Burke’s resilience and willingness to be fearless in her pursuits.

Fast forward to today, and there are many more opportunities for women within tech and the entrepreneurial space. Burke feels optimistic about the future for women in tech, saying, “when men were predominantly entrepreneurs and things were largely funded by men, a lot of women’s needs and opportunities went ignored, but now we are seeing advances in those areas that are important to women.”

These biases are by no means unique to tech. But what exactly it means to be empowered and heard as a woman is in the eye of the beholder. For our Senior Vice President of Marketing, Amy Packard Berry, it means not just being a part of the conversation, but ultimately part of the decision. However, she also acknowledges that being an empowered woman means “knowing when to take a break, recharge, and get their stamina back,” With that, taking care of yourself also reflects on how you take care of others. As women, it is easy for us to understand the importance of looking out for each other in the workplace, within our communities, and anywhere else it’s needed. For this, Packard Berry uses an acronym called “CARE,” which she breaks down as, “celebrating one another’s accomplishments, amplifying each other’s voices, reviving one another, and empowering one another.”

Too often today, men stand in the way of the progress women have worked so hard to achieve. We must move past this. While women can advocate for themselves all they want and demand more representation in boardrooms across America, men are historically where the pushback comes from. But there is a way for men to become allies. By listening to and supporting women, men can be agents of change and lead by example. Both Burke and Packard Berry stress the importance of being heard and why that is so crucial for women. Men have a big part in this, as Packard Berry says, “they can listen more and help amplify our voices.”

The next time someone asks why it is still necessary to honor International Women’s Month, tell them that it is because it takes all of us. This is not just a women’s fight, and this is not just a fight for women. This is about greater equality and the belief that we are all stronger together than working against each other.

Written By: Marissa Gonzales