March 8th is International Women’s Day. We’ve made great strides toward economic equality, but we still have a long way to go.

4 minute read

March is Women’s History Month in the United States – a time to celebrate women’s past achievements and focus on their future successes. It coincides with International Women’s Day on March 8.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over 100 years, and it’s tied to women’s financial gains and struggles. Here are five financial facts you may not know for 2021’s International Women’s Day.

1. International Women’s Day started as an American labor movement

In 1909, the Socialist Party of America organized a National Women’s Day march on the streets of New York. They were commemorating the 1908 strike held by the Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. They wanted better pay, fewer work hours, and the right to vote.

The next year in Copenhagen, attendees of the second International Conference of Working Women unanimously approved the idea of an International Women’s Day to push for the demands of working women. The day would take place on the last Sunday in February.

The day gained even more importance when a 1917 demonstration helped spark the Russian Revolution. On the last Sunday of February, women took to the streets to strike. They wanted “bread and peace” after two million of their men were killed in World War I. The strike continued until, four days later, the czar abdicated the throne.

International Women’s Day remained a socialist and communist movement until, after starting their own celebration in 1975, the United Nations invited their member states to begin celebrating International Women’s Day annually on March 8, 1977.

Find out: Effective Money Management for Women

2. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed a century after the original National Women’s Day

Though sex-based wage discrimination was banned by the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it was difficult to prove. And it didn’t remedy every source of workplace discrimination against women.

It took another 11 years before women could get their own credit cards without a chaperone, and another 15 years before it became illegal to dismiss women from their work if they became pregnant.

In 2009, 100 years after the National Women’s Day march that inspired International Women’s Day, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The act overturned a Supreme Court case that limited the time period within which employees could file pay discrimination complaints, making it easier for workers to prove sex-based wage discrimination.

Find out: 5 Ways Women Are Worse Off in Retirement Than Men

3. The pay gap still exists – and it’s worse for Black and Hispanic women

Statistics from the Department of Labor show that in 2017 (the latest data), white, non-Hispanic women made 77 percent of what white men did. For Black and Hispanic women, it dropped even lower to 60.8 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

Even more recent data from Business.org reveals that not much has changed. Women still have a lower average salary than men in every state. The national average pay gap is 18 percent, meaning that women effectively stop getting paid on Oct. 29.

4. It will take 257 years to reach economic gender equality

The Global Gender Gap Report conducted by the World Economic Forum analyzes 153 countries on the basis of educational attainment, health and survival, political empowerment, and economic participation and opportunity. Overall, the report predicts it will take 99.5 years to reach gender parity.

Unfortunately, economic participation and opportunity is majorly lagging behind. It was the only category that got worse since the last analysis and is projected to take 257 more years to reach gender parity.

What many may not realize is gender equality won’t just benefit women – the entire global economy will improve. A Bank of America report found that if full gender equality was reached, the global gross domestic product (GDP) would rise by up to $28 trillion.

5. Coronavirus set financial gender equality back

In February 2021, it was reported that 55 percent of the 9.8 million jobs lost since February 2020 were held by women. Nearly 2.1 million women dropped out of the labor force entirely. This means they aren’t even searching for another job.

Evidently, the pandemic is affecting women and men unequally – and it’s setting back workplace gender equality gains back to 2017 levels, says a recent analysis from PwC. Additionally, a UN study showed that women are taking on more of the housework and childcare duties.

So not only are women losing paid work, but they’re also taking on more unpaid work. In November 2020, UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia told the BBC:

“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the fact that unpaid work has really been the social safety net for the world and has made it possible for others to go out and earn a productive income, while actually hampering the growth opportunities and the employment opportunities of those women who are carrying the care burden.”

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About the Author

Kira Rosemarie

Kira Rosemarie

Kira is a writer and illustrator specializing in personal finance. She holds a degree in studio art from Indiana University and is finishing up her MBA from Nova Southeastern University. She's worked with Debt.com since 2018 and is a certified debt management professional.

Published by Debt.com, LLC