In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day. Commemorated on March 8, it’s a day when women are recognized for their historic achievements and applauded for their current-day accomplishments. This year’s theme is “Inspiring Change.”
International Women’s Day looks both backward in time and ahead.
Women of the past, including women who were first in their fields and women who are largely forgotten by history, are remembered on this day. For instance, history tells us that the first licensed woman pilot in the United States was Harriet Quimby in 1911. But it forgets to tell us that Katherine Wright, the third woman to fly in an airplane and the sister of the Wright brothers, had as much to do with the first flight at Kittyhawk as did her male siblings.
Another example of women sidelined by history is the dauntless Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs – women who flew every airplane made during WWII – yet were not considered military pilots until decades later.
Fortunately, the tide is turning. Looking ahead, International Women’s Day shines a light on the progress of women in all areas of their accomplishments. A few recent accomplishments are:
• Women are now CEOs in some of the country’s largest tech firms such as HP and Yahoo. In the defense industry, female execs head the three biggest contractors – Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and BAE. And most recently, Mary Barra was named CEO of General Motors, the first female chief of the world’s largest automaker.
• Women had a record-breaking year on the Forbes Billionaires list with 172 women listed. Women’s names have increased by 60 percent over the past two years.
• In the area of finance, where women are generally underrepresented, history was made in 2014. Janet Yellen became Federal Reserve Chairman, the first woman to hold this position in the 100-year history of the United States central bank.
• In the history of big paydays, Sandra Bullock is reported to have earned $70 million for her role in the Oscar-nominated film “Gravity.” Male actors traditionally receive larger salaries than females, but Bullock’s payday may make her the top earner in 2014.
• In politics, women have been exceptionally active during the current cycle. A record number of women – 181 – ran for Congress in 2012. This currently makes Congress 17 percent female, with 90 women serving.
• Women are continuing to take larger roles in areas such as elite sports, the military and entrepreneurship. Women made large contributions to the medal count at the Winter Olympics, they now serve in 95 percent of all Army occupations and many experts state that more than 50 percent of all self-employed people in the United States are women.
Locally, Kim Barrier, president of the Cross Timbers Business and Professional Women’s club, says, “It’s always challenging for a woman in the work force – to be able to expand in a career – to get out there and be able to do what a man can.”
The group meets twice a month, having one noon business meeting and one evening program, usually with a speaker. Barrier says a recent speaker addressed the stress women encounter when trying to balance family life and a career.
The reason for the club’s existence, says Barrier, involves women being there for each other.
“We’re a group of hard-working women who are there to encourage and support each other," she said. "When something happens, everyone steps in.”
The group is also committed to supporting the community. Two core community service activities are contributing to local charities and offering scholarships to Tarleton students.
Members throw a “baby shower” for The Rainbow Room each year and also support Habitat for Humanity, Cross Timbers Family Services, the Girl Scouts, Relay for Life and other programs that affect women and children. Their main fundraiser is Love Bites, which involves selling Valentine’s cookies to raise money to support the Bea Marin Scholarship Program.