You’re probably planning to observe National Women’s History Month all March long, but don’t forget to celebrate extra hard on March 8 in honor of International Women's Day. First introduced over a century ago, the holiday is now recognized by countries all over the world as it commemorates the political, cultural, and socioeconomic achievements of women everywhere and puts the spotlight on gender-related issues spanning from the wage gap and trans rights to violence and abuse against women and reproductive rights. So, to kickstart your celebration of this feminist holiday, it’s time to brush up on some International Women's Day facts.
Be forewarned: Some of this International Women's Day trivia is inspiring, some is infuriating, and some manages to be both. As much as the fight for women's rights has progressed since International Women's Day got its start in 1908, the fight for widespread gender equality still has a long way to go. Fortunately, though, all of these International Women's Day facts prove that women's overall progress and undeniable strength on a global level is a worthy cause of recognition and celebration.
Here are 27 International Women's Day facts to brush up on and share with friends and family as a reminder of the past, present, and future of women’s rights and issues.
1. International Women's Day (IWD) was born on March 8, 1908 when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City to demand shorter hours, better pay, and the right to vote. The first IWD event wasn't held until 1911, and only then in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. The UN didn't recognize it as a holiday until 1975.
2. It wasn't until 2011 — to honor the centennial of the first International Women's Day event — that President Barack Obama declared the entire month of March "Women's History Month" in the United States.
4. As of August 2021, Black women’s earnings are 63% of that of their white, non-Hispanic men’s counterparts, Native women’s are 60%, and Hispanic women’s are 55.4%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In comparison, white, non-Hispanic women earn 78.7% of white, non-Hispanic men’s earnings, and Asian women earn 87.1%.
5. This probably comes as no surprise, but women still spend more time on housework and childcare than men do. Data from the 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey found that women aged 15 and older spend 5.7 hours daily doing housework chores, as well as looking after kids and elders, while men in the same age range do so for 3.6 hours each day.
6. There are only 28 women serving as heads of state or government out of Earth’s 195 countries, as of September 2022.
7. As reported by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in 2020, roughly 60% of enrollment in U.S. universities and colleges is comprised of women, while men make up around 40% — the biggest gender enrollment gap in history. However, 50 years ago, these proportions were reversed.
8. In the U.S., Black women have the highest labor force participation rate of all women. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Black women's labor force participation rate in 2021 was 58.8% compared to 55.7% for white women.
9. In 2021, New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard became the first openly trans woman to compete at the Olympics, taking part in weightlifting at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
10. Despite the UN's Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women back in 1993, currently, one in three women worldwide are victims of physical or sexual violence — that’s an estimated 736 million women. Estimates published by the World Health Organization indicate that globally, almost one third (27%) of women aged 15 to 49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partner.
11. Transgender women are over four times more likely than cisgender women to be victims of violent crime, according to a 2021 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. In addition, one in four transgender women who were victimized thought the incident was a hate crime, compared to fewer than one in 10 cisgender women.
12. Women were disproportionately hit by the global COVID-19 unemployment crisis, seeing a 5% employment fall in 2020, as compared to 3.9% for men worldwide, according to the UN.
13. In 2018, UNICEF reported that at least 500 million people worldwide don't have access to a private, sanitary space where they can tend to their menstrual hygiene. Unfortunately, it looks like that number hasn’t improved much, because the Journal of Global Health Reports reported the same in 2022. That's half a billion dividuals across the globe who aren't granted the basic necessity of a clean, safe space to deal with their periods.
14. In January 2023, Fortune reported that for the first time, more than 10% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, with 53 female CEOs in total.
15.. Women in the U.S. did not have the right to obtain credit cards separate from their husbands until the passage of 1974 of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act — you can thank the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for that increase in women’s financial freedom.
16. Women were not allowed to compete in track and field events at the Olympics until the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam.
17. Women outnumber men as they get older in the U.S., according to 2019 Census data. The approximate ratio of women to men ages 85 and older is 4.1 million to 2.2 million in the United States.
18. In 1987, Aretha Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
19. Sally Ride was both the first woman in space and first gay astronaut when she flew on the Challenger space shuttle in 1983.
20. Women of nearly all races and ethnicities face higher rates of poverty than their male counterparts, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The highest rates of poverty are experienced by American Indigenous or Alaska Native (AI/AN) women, Black women, and Latinas. About one in four AI/AN women live in poverty — the highest rate of poverty among women or men of any racial or ethnic group.
21. According to the Population Reference Bureau in 2021, non-Hispanic Black women are 3.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy and postpartum-related causes than white women.
22. As of 2022, 54% of all people living with HIV are women and girls, as reported by UNAIDS. Every week, around 5,000 women aged 15 to 24 years become infected with HIV, and the risk of acquiring HIV is 14 times higher for transgender women.
23. Latina women experience the largest wage gap of any major racial or ethnic group in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2021. For every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white man, a Latina earns just 57 cents. Additionally, almost one in 10 Latinas working 27 hours or more a week live below the poverty line.
24. Women made up 18% of directors of the 250 highest-grossing films in 2022, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
25. In 2021, the Annenberg Inclusion initiative at the University of Southern California found through its annual study, the “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?”, that only 23.3% of the people on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End chart were women. The study also determined that only 21.8% of artists on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End charts from 2012-2021 were women, which means there wasn’t much of an increase over time.
26. It is estimated that more than 22,000 girls a year die from pregnancy and childbirth resulting from child marriage, according to a 2021 analysis from Save the Children. West and Central Africa account for nearly half (9,600) of all estimated child marriage-related deaths globally, or 26 deaths a day, with South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin American and the Caribbean following.
27. Globally, 129 million girls are out of school, including 32 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67 million of upper-secondary school age, as reported by UNICEF. In countries affected by conflict, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school.
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