This March 8 is International Women’s Day, and for many, it’s also become A Day Without A Woman, which is described as an action “for equity, justice, and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.”
Plenty of women will wearing red as an easy way to recognize your fellow sisters on the street. Some will be attending peaceful, local Day Without A Woman gatherings
Others will be blacking out social media, or refusing to shop.
But a lot of the focus has been on the women choosing to strike, by taking the day off from work (including the unpaid work they do at home) to make a point about the importance of women in the workplace.
That said, not every woman has the privilege or opportunity or even desire to skip work — a point that has been made pretty much all over the internet, so I’m not going to dwell on it.
Personally, I’m going to be at my computer for much of the day, because the work I do helps support women business owners, it amplifies the voices of other women, and it pays the salaries of lots of women. And honestly…I enjoy it.
(Our own nearly all-woman staff, for what it’s worth, has the option to work or not work, to march or be with their families, or honor the day however they see fit.)
It made me think about how many things we can do, if only simple, small steps, that can help show solidarity with women on International Women’s Day. My aim: To find other ways to lift other women up, and be more mindful of our collective challenges and goals every day, not just on one special day.
So here, I’ve put a few idea starters for you, each one creating impact for women that I hope will go beyond March 8.
And hey, I’m sure you can come up with your own fantastic ideas.
We’re women! We’re creative that way.
Top photo: Alice Donovan Rouse via Unsplash
1. Commit to reading more women authors
Look at your own bookshelf and take quick inventory of the male vs female author ratio. Do the same for your children’s bookshelf.
If you need some ideas of where to start, check the website for non-profit VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. (Last year’s VIDA count, which analyzes gender and racial parity in publishing…not good.)
Look at Nobel Laureates like Toni Morrison, Svetlana Alexievich, Alice Munro, or Nadine Gordimer.
Rona Jaffe 2015 Award Winners for emerging female writers: Ashley M. Jones, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, Vanessa Hua, Amanda Rea, Natalie Haney Tilghman, Meehan Crist
Or hey, read the best-sellers! Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, Danielle Steele — it’s all good. Just know that the majority of best-selling fiction authors are definitely not women. Which is why it’s a great idea to try to make an emerging author a new best-seller.
A great resource is the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Awards which honors emerging female fiction writers, non-fiction writers, and poets; you’ll find dozens of women worth reading since the annual awards were introduced in 1995.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend our favorite female bloggers-turned-authors, penning books like Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson; I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi; Parent Hacks by Asha Dornfest; Remarkably Average Parenting by Ilana Wiles; and above, The Thunder Beneath Us by our own Cool Mom alumna, Nicole Blades.
2. Diversify your social media lists, the media channels you read or watch, and amplify female voices
If you follow journalists, editorial writers, pundits, or influencers of any kind on social media — even comedians, yo — take a hard look and evaluate whether you’re hearing as many women’s voices when it comes to news, politics, science, and social issues, as you might when it comes to lifestyle, media or culture.
There are so many incredible female voices out there talking about all kinds of topics that deserve to be heard more. Plus, I have learned first hand just how much my worldview has changed and opened by diversifying my sources of info.
Ava DuVernay on the power of amplifying voices
That said, it can be hard to find those voices.
People ask me all the time, “how do you know who to follow?” Start with the voices you love, then see who they follow. See who they amplify. See what they’re reading. It’s one of my favorite aspects of social networks. And amplifying the different voices of women you love is one of the great things we can all do with our social platforms, whatever the size.
If you want to get data nerd-y like me, check out the 2015 report from the Women’s Media Center (PDF) and you’ll see how poorly women are represented in newsrooms, editorial boards, and Sunday morning news shows. Let alone women of color. It will give you some good outrage-y incentive to seek out even more women. Well, it does for me, at least.
3. Support an organization or initiative exclusively dedicated to supporting women
There are so many remarkable women-centric organizations — many that we cover right here on this website — it can be hard to know where to focus. So try to pick whatever seems to call to you right now.
Think: Job opportunities, women in government, STEM for women and girls, single motherhood, LGBT issues impacting women, maternal health and safety, women’s mental health and physical health, social justice, gender equality in sports, educational opportunities, even teen and tween girl empowerment. It all matters.
Just today we featured the ONE.org #girlscount initiative to urge global leaders to provide education to the 130 million girls around the world who don’t have access to any.
Look at our charity + causes category for a zillion organizations you can support through donations, purchases or volunteer work.
Or visit the link to the Charity Navigator list of organizations specifically supporting women and girls. It’s grouped into four broad categories, making it easier to drill down to your own specific topics of interest.
4. Read up on issues of women’s equality around the world that still need work.
Not pulling punches here: I’m pretty much over people who tell me “women are already equal” or “we don’t need feminism anymore.”
I could list a zillion links to support my point, but let’s just skip to the legal perspective; the ACLU Women’s Rights page lays out the specific topics they continue to fight in courts that impact American women, including pregnancy and parenting discrimination, violence against women, women’s rights in the workplace, women’s rights in education, and women and criminal justice.
Click through the links in any one category or subtopic at all, and you’ll be amazed at how many issues women are facing in the U.S. that seem like they should be long since resolved.
I’d suggest starting with The Top 10 Reasons the ACLU Fights for Breastfeeding Rights.
(Share that one with your crazy father-in-law who’s like, women are already equal! You get to wear dungarees now, right?)
5. Share one article, (legit) meme, or infographic about women with your network
Speaking of sharing articles, changing hearts and minds can be tough. But when it’s you speaking directly with your own friends and family — especially if you aren’t the type who tends to talk politics or issues of social justice — you can really have a big impact.
Maybe it means posting an op-ed, a study, a personal blog post, or a terrific infographic that brings to life a women’s issue that you want everyone to know more about.
Maybe it means emailing your uncle you haven’t spoken to in a few months, and saying, “this article might help you understand why this issue is so important to me (and sorry we fought over Thanksgiving.)”
Maybe it means (eek) picking up the phone. In-person chats work wonders too.
For example, behold this infographic from the Women’s Media Center detailing the lack of gender diversity in Hollywood. It’s pretty astounding to the stats laid out like this. And you never know what will get people talking.
6. Shop and support a woman-owned small business or organization
One of the core actions from the Day Without a Woman organizers is directing women not to spend money today, to show the influence we have over consumer spending and the economy.
This may not be a popular opinion, but I have never believed that as a tool for change, untargeted “boycotts” without strong rationale are particularly effective.
And while I’m all for showing our collective economic power, I’m not convinced that postponing a shopping trip to the supermarket from Wednesday to Thursday will be meaningful. But, I could be wrong. We’ll see how the day plays out.
My swanky new mug supporting Kelly Wickham’s Being Black at School
I also am concerned about the unintended consequences of hurting women through this particular action — will a salesperson not hit her goals for the day? Will that impact her bonus? Will it mean she has to work longer hours to make up for it, potentially missing other aspects of her life that are important to her, like time with family and friends?
This isn’t to disparage anyone who chooses not to shop; just to say I much prefer the alternative recommendation to try and direct your money toward smaller woman-owned businesses. Which could end up becoming a long-term choice that can really impact someone’s life for the better.
So, where to start? Sheesh!
Digital agency Big Spaceship designed a Woman-Owned banner, poster or GIF that companies can display. Love the checkmark from the W!
Our own site has no shortage of women and minority-owned small businesses, indie makers, and small retailers we adore, so… browse around the hundreds of recommendations on our holiday gift guide, our birthday party gift guide, our baby shower gift guide, or pretty much our entire site, including the many, many Etsy artists we’ve been covering for more than ten years.
Hopefully you’ll find someone new you’re excited to support.
(Even after all this time, Kristen and I still get excited every day that we discover someone new and cool to share!)
Oh okay, fine.
I will make just one recommendation because she’s one of the newest makers we’ve featured on our site:
I’d urge you to visit our dear friend Christine Koh’s Etsy shop, Brave New World Designs. Not only are you supporting a cool mom-run business when you shop with her, but you’re getting a great looking t-shirt that helps support all kinds of worthy organizations.
7. Watch movies with strong female characters
Wow, was I pleasantly surprised when my 6th grader came home from school last week telling me she had learned about the Bechdel Test.
If you’re not familiar with it, to pass the test, a work of fiction must feature at least two female characters who discuss something with each other besides a man or boy.
Once you’ve heard about it, you can’t unknow it.
The origination of the Bechdel Test: Cartoon by Allison Bechdel
with idea credits to Liz Wallace and Virginia Woolf
That’s why it’s important to see movies in theater like Hidden Figures, and use the power of the purse to show Hollywood, TV producers, and publishing companies that there’s a market for movies in which women are more than “the girlfriend.” Some might even have…(gasp) names!
For more ideas, check out Indiewire’s list of the top movies of 2016 that pass the Bechdel test.
Heck yeah, Ghostbusters reboot!
Related: 15 amazing strong girl costumes for Halloween that go beyond the expected.
8. Seek out and support women in fine art
I had the great fortune to be seated next to fine art photographer Carrie Mae Weems on a recent flight (you can see work from her incredible 2014 Guggenheim photography and video retrospective here) and it made me think about how few female artists whose work we know, relative to men.
(Cindy Sherman. Amy Arbus. Phew. But still.)
Well no wonder. Their site reveals that work by women artists comprises just 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe. We’re hardly even exposed to women in fine arts unless we actively seek them out. And it’s not like I have a ton of time for gallery hopping since becoming a parent.
So, make an effort to visit exhibits featuring female fine artists when you do have a day of culture planned. Take the NMWA challenge this month and share posts about favorite women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists. Or just try and discover one new artist to love.
A few resources to get you started:
–A list of 1000+ renown women artist profiles on the NMWA website
–20 important African-American female artists of the 20th century on Complex
–Biographies and galleries of notable female artists on biography.com
–10 shows by groundbreaking, modern female sculptors on Artnet
–11 women artists who should have their own MoMA retrospectives, on HuffPost Arts & Culture
9. Commit to speaking up more!
One study revealed that while only 28% of identifiable online commenters on the NY Times were women, yet their comments receive more recommendations from other readers. So, got something to say? Say it and say it well.
Every voice matters.
And this doesn’t just refer to online commenting of course.
Ask for the raise you’ve been putting off. Talk to your partner if you’ve been resentful about an imbalance of household responsibilities. Don’t say yes when you really want to say no. Speak up!
10. Write your elected representatives
Whatever your concerns for yourself, your family, and fellow women — health care, taxes, public education funding, mental health support, college loans — use your voice as a constituent to register your opinions with your elected leaders, from the school board to your US Senator to the White House.
The most effective and impactful method is to set up a meeting or show up in person. But we know that’s not realistic for a lot of us.
Free printable LOVE postcard from Rebecca Atwood at Design Crush
Having spoken to some friends in politics, mail is far more likely to be opened than email — but postcards are an even better bet, since they don’t have to be sorted and vetted.
(Online petitions, by the way: Pretty useless. I know they make everyone feel good to sign them but they’re rarely worth your time unless they come directly from an elected official gathering constituent signatures.)
Recently we shared some cool downloadable postcards for mailing to elected representatives that are ready for printing, signing and sending thanks to a lot of fabulous indie artists, and Kelly Beall of Design Crush who put them together.
But to really get through? Pick up the phone!
Whether you leave a message or (ideally) get an aide on the phone, voice calls are wildly effective. You can find contact info for any of your elected representatives from USA.gov and you will always have the most impact with your own district, county, or state rep.
Just be polite. But you know that.
11. Run for office
Okay so this isn’t really a quick, easy thing you can do. But…think about it. More women need to lead! How else is the future going to be female?
If you’re considering this, you’re not alone. In fact, more than 17,000 women committed to run for office immediately following the January Women’s March alone.
But if not you, maybe someone else you know? Check out the non-partisan She Should run website which provides a community of women considering it, and form to suggest the idea to a woman you think would be terrific.
Vote Run Lead is another non-partisan org that provides training, technology and community to get more women involved in political leadership at all levels.
If you want more motivation, read this article about Republican Congresswoman from New York, Elise Stefanik, who at 31 was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She describes why it’s so important for women to be part of our government, especially millennials. (But any age is good, of course.)
All things considered, we’ve come a long way, baby. But then, when you hear that Afghanistan has a higher percentage of women in its legislature than the US, well, let’s keep going.