International women’s day was celebrated by women all around the world this Wednesday, March 8. Google’s doodle of the day featured 13 inspiring women who made history. Women changed their profile pictures on Facebook to have a red frame, red being the color of the movement. Marches, strikes, and lectures took place across the globe. Snapchat even changed some of its filters to include famous women from history. Here are just a few of the demonstrations that were held around the world: In Tbilisi, Georgia women stood under a symbolic “glass ceiling”; thousands of women (and men) marched through Rome to protest wage inequality, discrimination, and violence against women; women in Buenos Aires left work for a one-hour strike, women in Paris staged a rally for gender equality beginning at 3:40pm (the time of day when Frenchwomen symbolically stop being paid as a result of the 26 percent pay gap with men), and women in the U.S. took to the streets in Washington DC and New York City.
This annual celebration, which has officially been in existence since 1911, is a celebration and recognition of all women throughout history. It both celebrates the accomplishments made by women and also acknowledges that major disparities still exist and gender equality, even 106 years after the event’s founding, has not yet been achieved. While International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate all women from all fields and walks of life, this year in particular had an emphasis on women in science and technology.
Women in science and technology fields have been grossly underrepresented and under-appreciated since first occupying these traditionally male-occupied roles. According to the Department of Labor, women represent only 26 percent of all computer and mathematics jobs in the United States. Furthermore, according to Forbes less than 5% of women are tech leaders yet in the best-performing tech companies, more than a quarter of the leaders are female. However, if the recent marches and demonstrations are any indication, women are acutely aware of their unequal status in society and are energized and motivated to take action by it, so perhaps times really are a changin’.
Case in point: four of the 13 women featured in Google’s doodles of influential women held technology jobs and accomplished major milestones in their professions. Ada Lovelace, born in 1915, was the world’s first computer programmer. Olga Skorokhodova came from humble and trying beginnings; she was born into a poor Ukrainian family in 1911 and lost both her sight and hearing by the age of five. In spite of these obstacles, she rose to hold several positions over her lifetime, one of which was a researcher where she established scientific works on the advancement of education for deaf-blind children. Sally Ride, an astronaut and physicist who joined NASA in 1978 after gaining her PhD, was the first American woman and the third woman ever to go into space. Lastly, Cecilia Grierson was a physician who made significant contributions to Argentinian healthcare. Born in Buenos Aires in 1859, she became the first woman in Argentina to obtain a medical degree at a time when women were not allowed to enroll in medical school.
Social media was the main powerhouse for International Women’s Day, with Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat all serving as engines through which women came together to express their support. Last year, Facebook launched the #SheMeansBusiness program last year to “support, celebrate and empower women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses.” The social network also hosted a 24-hour live broadcast on Wednesday featuring women all around the words sharing their ideas and inspiration. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, #BeBoldForChange was trending on Twitter. Even Snapchat got involved, featuring filters of Frida Kahlo and Marie Curie.
I’ll be blunt: women still have a long way to go before obtaining total equality with men, especially in the science and technology sectors. Although schools are gradually starting to implement more advanced technology programs encompassing women, women are rarely encouraged to pursue careers in technology, with only 16% of women reporting to The Mirror they’ve had a career in technology suggested to them compared with 33% of men. The World Economic Forum predicts it will take until 2186 for the gender gap to close completely.
These statistics may appear to be grim, but I am inspired by women every day. As the Senior Client Director at Gartner, I represent one of the few women leaders in technology and I credit my own drive and determination for getting there. Women have the tools at the their disposal to achieve great things. We may not always receive the support we should, but together we can create change.