The following is an opinion piece originally published in One United Lancaster on 3/25/22. Read it on One United Lancaster
March is Women’s History Month, a month that contains important intersectional representation: International Women’s Day on March 8, Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, as well as sharing this time with Disability Awareness Month.
Today, the world is facing substantial challenges, and wise compassionate leadership has never been more important. This moment in time demands change and women’s leadership is the answer. A moment that calls not just for looking to the past, but to the future, for justice.
When I say “women,” I am explicitly including Black women, Hispanic women, Asian women, trans women, women with disabilities, young women and all who identify as women, with the understanding that we do not all confront these challenges on equal ground.
This is our third consecutive Women’s History Month in a pandemic. We’ve largely passed the point of being able to truly comprehend the physical toll, the family loss, and the generational earthquake of economic impact it has created, but we do know someone—maybe it’s you—who has left their job because of childcare needs.
We all know someone—maybe it’s you—who braved unfair and unsafe conditions to work and support their family.
We all know someone—maybe it’s you—who has stayed in a bad living situation because there was no safer alternative or who lost their housing when rent was raised.
Also, during this time, over 50 municipalities and some states have declared Racism as a Public Health Crisis. There’s never been a time, not a single year, where the U.S. population of African descent hasn’t been sicker or died younger than whites. None of this is justice.
As we look to history for inspiration, I must remember that for the YWCA Lancaster, it’s our second pandemic. Our building opened in 1918 after years of work by local women and was then promptly closed for a time because of the Spanish Flu. I started at YWCA Lancaster in December of 2019. I’ve only known a short time when our work was not fully focused on meeting the challenges faced when a pandemic exacerbates the inequities that have always persisted in our society.
The economic impacts of the pandemic have been called the She-session: women have lost jobs two times more than men. Be careful of the optimistic reports of unemployment results or jobs gained. Always ask the next questions: what about all women? What about Black women? What about Hispanic women? What about women with disabilities? Then you will have a full picture.
In 2021 the pay gap for women is still 82c/$1 for men. Unless you are a Black woman, then it is 65c in PA or if you are Latina, it is 57c nationwide. This means you work weeks, months longer for the same amount of money. In your lifetime of work, you may earn $1 million less than a man. None of this is justice.
To get out of this she-session, we need more women able to contribute their talents and skills to help humanity to survive and prosper now. We must center the voices and values of women, families, and racial equity. And we need our policies to reflect this as well.
We need to change practices so that women hold power in all facets of life from school boards to boardrooms.
Respecting and including women—all women—is the simple solution for this moment. International Women’s Day was created at a time of organizing for women’s right to vote, and for labor rights. Women’s History Month is a constant reminder of how far we have come, and the countless voices for that have helped us see how far we can go together. More than a century later our message justice remains the same. My call remains the same.
At YWCA Lancaster, we demand a world of equity and human decency. At a time when women’s livelihood, safety, and personhood is being challenged, we envision a world of opportunity and community for all to be their fullest selves. We commit ourselves to the work of racial justice, and we will continue to do the work until injustice is rooted out, until institutions are transformed, until the world sees women, girls, and people of color the way we do: Equal. Powerful. Unstoppable.
Until justice just is.