Women’s History Month has been celebrated in the United States since 1987, when it was declared a national observance by Congress. It grew out of International Women’s Day, which has been celebrated since 1911, and the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Just as feminism itself continues to evolve over time, so too has Women’s History Month. Over the years, it has grown to become an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women throughout history, while also highlighting ongoing challenges and advocating for gender equality.
We’ve seen a lot of progress since Women’s History Month first began, whether in terms of women’s financial security or the growing prominence of female-led entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Every year, we see new movements emerge or take higher priority in the conversation. As we look back on Women’s History Month 2023, it is important to take stock of the most notable trends that emerged this year. By highlighting these developments, we can continue to promote greater awareness and progress toward gender equality and women’s empowerment.
One of the biggest shifts in conversations around gender in recent years has been the more proactive efforts to include and uplift people who have been previously left out of mainstream feminist movements. The rise of intersectional feminism recognizes the unique experiences and struggles of women based on factors such as race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and ability. From the recent rollback of legal protections around reproductive justice to renewed gender binary rhetoric, there have been a number of challenges over the past few years that highlight the need for intersectional inclusivity and support. Freedom shouldn’t be limited to borders or the actions of any single group, so it is vital that measures are taken to amplify the voices and experiences of all women, particularly those who have been historically marginalized and excluded from mainstream feminism.
Mental Health & Wellness
Also apparent this year is the growing emphasis on women’s mental health and wellness. Due to the ongoing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the last few years have highlighted how impactful and far reaching the issue of mental health can be, including several high profile cases of burnout. Additionally, there is greater awareness of the unique challenges that women face in terms of mental health, such as higher rates of anxiety and depression, as well as the impact of systemic oppression on women’s well-being. To address these issues, there is a growing trend to promote self-care and self-compassion among women, as well as to advocate for policies and programs that support women’s mental health and access to mental health care.
In addition, organizations should continue to consider putting mental health on a par with physical health. Implementing policies that recognize and support women’s mental health care can have a profound impact on women’s well-being and quality of life. By taking into account the unique challenges and experiences that women face, such policies can ensure that women have access to appropriate and effective mental health care services. This can help address and prevent issues such as depression, anxiety, and trauma, which disproportionately affect women. Additionally, policies that prioritize women’s mental health can help reduce stigma and discrimination, and empower women to seek help and support while promoting gender equality. Ultimately, recognizing and supporting women’s mental health care is not only a matter of social justice and human rights, but also a crucial step towards creating a healthier and more equitable society for all.
Leadership & Representation
In 2023, there has been a continued focus on women’s leadership and representation in various fields, including politics, business, and the arts. Though women only account for 23% of senior leadership roles globally, there remain opportunities to promote more women into leadership roles due to high rates of retirement among current leadership and the fallout from the Great Resignation. Many companies are implementing women’s leadership development programs to tackle internal biases and ensure female leaders are properly equipped for the challenges of senior roles. There is also a growing recognition of the importance of mentorship and networking for women, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to help support their career growth and advancement.
Yet, mentors and leadership training alone aren’t enough to make meaningful change: women’s leadership development programs only work if they are coupled with broader efforts to advance women and a layer of accountability for management. Also, while mentorship can provide valuable career guidance for women in several industries and foster greater diversity in the process, it is equally important for women to find “career investors” and sponsors who not only provide career advice, but use their leadership status to advocate for them and provide opportunities to highlight their potential.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
While Women’s History Month 2023 has come to close, that doesn’t mean that the conversation surrounding gender equality and women’s empowerment should be over. Along with serving as an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of great women throughout history, Women’s History Month is a chance to look at how much more still needs to be done and how each of us, daily, are contributing to that work. Whether by promoting intersectionality, supporting women’s mental health and wellness, or supporting women’s promotion to leadership roles, there is plenty we can do to promote gender equity throughout 2023 and beyond.