While current events (the #MeToo movement, school shootings, ongoing refugee crises in Bangladesh and Syria) may seem far removed from the daily life of our small community, we exhort Iowan women to consider your important role and responsibility in affecting change to improve the quality of life for all women, everywhere. Since it’s inception in 1908, International Women’s Day has been an opportunity to reflect and affect change.
Regardless of your political party or religious affiliation, we believe that all women have a role in participating to enact change that is others-centered and considers the broader experience of low- and middle-income women both locally and globally. Grassroots efforts have proven to be most effective since women rallied to obtain the right to vote, and continue today in forums such as Run 4 All Women, #MeToo and Women for Women. From these forums we see that there is power in sharing stories and facts that increase awareness. Increased awareness can then give rise to action, whether by more females running for office, writing their congressional representatives, or distributing humanitarian resources effectively to women and children. For example, research in development and global economics has found that when microloans are given to women rather than men, women in low resource settings reinvest an average of 80 percent of their earnings (www.kiva.org/Her) into the well being and education of their children. Investing in women is synonymous with investing in the future.
Closer to home, the U.S. continues to experience fairly significant discrepancies in the median wage between men and women. 2016 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported the median wage of women in the United States is 18.1 percent lower than men. While some improvements may have resulted since that time, this percentage undoubtedly remains above the 0 percent mark, which would suggest equality.
Pressing for progress requires that women have a role in policy and legislation that will allow for such forward movement. According to Rutgers University data, the proportion of women in state legislatures is only 25.1 percent. When we consider that state budgets determine funding allocated for social service resources such as WIC (women, infants and children) that provide well child visits, developmental screens, and assist mothers in providing nutritious food for their children, it is clear that women should have a role in developing the budget for these state resources. 25.1 percent is an astonishingly low proportion given that over half of the U.S. population (50.8 percent according to 2010 U.S. census) is female.
No matter the issue, we believe most ardently that words should always give rise to action rather than anger. Small town voices should be progressive rather than regressive, and we hope that all women will Press for Progress on this day, but also each day as we move forward. As you read this today what changes do you see the need for?