Politics & Policy

A Way to Actually Help Women on International Women’s Day

Protesters at the Women’s March in Washington, January 21, 2017. (Reuters photo: Shannon Stapleton)
Work together instead of striking on March 8

Organizers of the Women’s March are calling on women to strike on March 8, International Women’s Day. Originally called International Working Women’s Day, it traditionally celebrates women’s achievements in politics, the workplace, and society.

Before we have a #daywithoutwomen, though, let’s take a moment to consider how it will advance the needs of women if hospital staff, EMTs, police officers, or attorneys don’t show up to work. Consider a rape victim who doesn’t have a woman in those roles to help her.

I don’t know how many working mothers can afford to take a day without pay, or what it will really accomplish. And how does it enrich the needs of our daughters — or sons — if their teachers strike? Every day matters for students who are learning the basics to compete in a global economy.

More and more small businesses are owned by women. Are they supposed to strike against their own companies or family farms? Are women who managed to break through the glass ceiling and are in positions of leadership really expected to not show up for the jobs they fought so hard to win?

Moreover, while we, as feminists, talk about ending the “feminization of poverty,” this is a strike that may appeal to the privileged but does nothing for workers who struggle every day to put food on the table and are one paycheck away from being homeless.

Women who have fought for equality should be present — not absent — at our workplaces. But march organizers expect to turn a day about women into a day without women. This is a disservice to women and children and should be rejected as such. Better that feminists who can afford to take the day off should do something for organizations serving poor and low-income women who need job training, a path to higher education, workplace accommodations for pregnant women and parents.

Women who have fought for equality should be present — not absent — at our workplaces.

Instead of striking, we at Feminists for Life ask the Women’s March and strike organizers to look at the Guttmacher Institute’s statistics and consider that most women who have abortions are poor or low-income (75 percent), and most are already mothers (59 percent). Their children are no less precious than children of privilege.

Women have sought real solutions since entering the workforce. Women want — and deserve — equal opportunities for pay and positions in the workplace, through flextime, job sharing, and telecommuting; comprehensive health care that includes maternity benefits, with policies that include parental leave; and affordable, high-quality child care. All this starts with a culture that supports and celebrates pregnant and parenting employees.

On March 8, in the tradition of the first-wave feminists who supported both mothers and children, born and unborn, we invite both employees and employers to take FFL’s Workplace Inventory to help you assess the supportiveness of your workplace.

As you evaluate your workplace and seek to address unmet needs in any area, think about the best way for your company to create meaningful and cost-effective solutions. Take into consideration the size of the employer and what kind of work the employees do. For some types of employment, on-site day-care or child-care subsidies are essential. For others, telecommuting, shorter shifts, or flextime would be the best option.

Update your evaluation annually. Solutions may change with circumstances, such as emerging technologies. And as your company grows, it may be possible to offer more benefits. Tell your customers, too. And remember to share in the celebration of every new family member. Employers who create this culture will be rewarded with loyalty by their employees and customers.

Deciding how to make a workplace better for women is a much more productive way to celebrate International Women’s Day than a misdirected strike that can hurt the very women organizers seek to support.

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