Growing up I heard about National Women's Day – without ever hearing about it. What I mean is that National Women's Day was mentioned but never talked about or discussed with any depth.
In a sign of progress, National Women's Day is now an International Women's History Month. Although this is a positive sign, I still think more recognition and celebration is needed to properly acknowledge the accomplishments women have achieved — including women from all backgrounds, cultures, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic levels.
How did this observance go from day to week to month? Below is a brief timeline:
1848 - First milestone in the United States. Indignant over women being barred from speaking at an anti-slavery convention, Americans Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott gathered a few hundred people at their nation's first women's rights convention. Together they demanded civil, social, political and religious rights for women in a Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, A movement was born.
1908 - The first National Women's Day was observed in the United States on Feb. 28. The day was in honor of the garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against harsh working conditions.
1910 - A Women's Day was established in Europe, to honor the movement of women's rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage (right to vote) for women.
1975 - International Women's Day is officially commemorated by the United Nations.
1977 - International Women's Day is officially recognized by the United Nations.
1980 - President Jimmy Carter designates the first official International Women's Week
1987 - Congress declares March 1987 as the first official International Women's History Month.
Each year the Women's Alliance comes up with a theme — this year’s theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can choose to support each other as women. We can choose to celebrate each other and our achievements. Collectively, we can work toward a more inclusive world.
As a young woman starting out in the workplace, I was eager to learn and grow within a successful company. So when I got my first job (associate buyer) at a well-known lingerie company, I was ecstatic. The fashion industry was full of female workers at all levels, from administrative to executive. I thought this lack of gender diversity would work to my advantage, allowing me to learn from fellow female co-workers. I assumed they would embrace me and want me to succeed and get promoted.
I couldn't have been more wrong. I kept trying to find a mentor, someone who would take me under her wing and instill knowledge and advice. That didn't happen. I never found a true mentor in any of the fashion companies where I worked. Most of the female management was self-serving and not at all interested in developing their young female staff for future success. They had one goal in mind, and that was to succeed personally.
There was a handful of kind and thoughtful female leaders, but they were few and far between. They certainly did not make up the majority of the corporate culture, which was sink or swim, step on others or be stepped upon.
I survived in that environment because I did a good job and figured how to deal with the corporate politics. But when I moved a few rungs up the industry ladder I vowed to never treat my staff the same way. I hired many young women as assistants and associates and passed on knowledge and advice, hoping to advance their careers through support and cooperation.
Lisa, my Starling co-founder, had many of the same experiences as a young female worker in the fashion industry. Because of that, she shares a desire to be a caring mentor in a women-led company.
In this phase of my career, I want to encourage enthusiasm and growth in women. We should all support each other, both personally and professionally. We should want the next generation of women to excel and take over our roles someday, and to remember us fondly for having supported them. And we should strive to build the foundation for future female employees to receive the same respectful treatment. At Starling, Lisa and I have pledged to be supportive and passionate leaders who allow for individuality while fostering a strong value system of supportive teamwork and continual learning.
As women, let's make it easier for each other to achieve our dreams. In honor of International Women's Month, I challenge my fellow women to support one another. Let's all shine together.