In the United States, we’ve witnessed the advancement of women’s social, political, and economic power over time. Their spending power is estimated to be up to $15 trillion dollars, and with their increased participation in the workforce, they’ve become an increasingly powerful force in today’s economy. In spite of this advancement, we’ve also witnessed the curtailing of women’s civil rights—most notably and recently, the overturn of Roe vs Wade. This decision by the Supreme Court signified the precarious position women have in society—while they have made enormous strides in workforce participation, they are still not viewed as full citizens.
This also comes at the cusp of Women’s Equality Day on August 26—a day where we honor and celebrate the advancement of women’s rights and make a commitment to continuing the fight toward gender equity. It commemorates the adoption of the 19th amendment, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying the right to vote on the basis of the sex.
The importance of Women’s Equality Day
For this Women’s Equality Day, it’s important to not only honor the historical and contemporary accomplishments of women but also work toward eliminating gender- and sex-based discrimination in all facets of life. Achieving gender parity and equity involves the full participation of everyone, and studies who that the advancement of women leads to more profitable, healthier, and successful organizations and societies.
How to celebrate and advocate for women’s equality
College students play an extraordinary role in celebrating women’s equality and helping combat sex- and gender-based inequities. If you’re wondering what you can do to honor and recognize Women’s Equality Day, here are five ways to start.
1. Encourage women-focused student activities
Student involvement and activities play a critical role in student satisfaction on campus, and many students enjoy meeting friends as well as building leadership and other skills. Having women in club leadership roles has a significant impact on the overall success of the organization, as women have proven to be more cooperative, bring diverse solutions to problems, and improve the group morale overall. That’s why it’s critical to encourage your women friends and classmates to run for student leadership positions.
If you hold a role on student government, it’s also important to advocate for more women-focused student activities where women can not only focus on their needs but also build leadership skills. Organizations like Women in STEM and the Society of Women Engineers provide safe spaces for women to build their academic, social, and leadership competencies. Consider advocating for the creation and continued funding of these organizations on your campus. You can also host a women’s clothing or food drive for local domestic violence shelters, help plan a career fair for local women’s business owners, or host an event focused on alleviating sexual harassment or gender-based discrimination. Your voice is critical as a student, and the more we center the lives of women in student activities, the more valued women will feel.
2. Learn about gender studies and intersectionality
Understanding diverse worldviews is a key tenant of a college education. Since the 1990s, there has been a 300% increase in the number of Gender Studies graduates. We can’t simply depend on women to do the educating, and everyone must take an active role in learning about the history of gender oppression and how it manifests today. Many colleges offer courses on gender or women’s studies, and this is a great opportunity to learn about important events like women’s suffrage and how gender discrimination shapes our social and political discourse. These courses will also expose to you to women authors who have largely been ignored or marginalized in other subjects.
One of the most important gender studies terms to know is intersectionality, coined by legal scholar, author, and activist Kimberelé Crenshaw. This term refers to the interconnectedness of social identities like race, class, and gender. Intersectionality acknowledges that the experiences of White and Black women differ as Black women face both gender and racial discrimination. While Women’s Equality Day celebrates women gaining the right to vote in 1920, this was a freedom enjoyed only by White women for decades. It wasn’t until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that made voting a reality for Black women. Learning about gender oppression and intersectionality is key to ensuring you’re an informed ally and aware of the complexities of achieving equality.
3. Utilize your social media reach
College students play an extraordinary role in shaping our nation’s public and social discourse. In fact, 66% of college students voted in the 2020 presidential election, and data shows they’ll continue to play a significant role in our electoral politics. Through social media apps like Instagram and TikTok, college and other Gen Z students are helping weigh in on important social topics like student loan debt, women’s reproductive rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. Their ability to utilize social media to reach broad audiences and cultivate social consciousness about critical issues is unlike anything we’ve seen in previous generations. Students should continue to utilize their social media skills to create awareness about women’s issues and encourage others to join you in taking part in local women’s advocacy efforts.
4. Participate in a mentoring program
Women have shown throughout history the importance of paying it forward or mentoring other women. Mentorship has shown to have a positive impact on a person’s socioemotional health and self-confidence. For women students especially, mentorship can have a huge impact on personal, academic, and professional success. At many colleges, mentoring programs are diverse and exist for first-year students or those pursuing a particular major, career path, or extracurricular interest. The Steps to STEM Mentor program at Seattle Pacific University focuses on pairing current students with alumni from the Biology and Chemistry departments, helping students build their confidence in pursuing STEM. Since women are severely underrepresented in STEM, mentoring programs like this play a significant role in eliminating these disparities. Consider asking your school about any on- or off-campus mentoring programs that are open to college student volunteers. Mentorship is a great résumé and skill builder!
5. Solicit feedback from women
Despite the contributions women make to society, their voice and opinions have largely been silenced and ignored. In the US, policies have been made about women’s bodies and reproductive rights without asking women or having them lead these decisions. Our daily interactions with women highlight how much their voice is marginalized; whether in workplaces or schools, women report being ignored by men and being talked over or interrupted during conversations. This signals to women that their opinions are rarely validated or appreciated. If you’re a student leader on campus, consider conducting a survey with women students about how their college can better support them, or try advocating to administration to provide more opportunities for women to give feedback about campus life. Listening to women and elevating their choices in traditionally male-dominated spaces are great ways to show your allyship.
This Women’s Equality Day is historic—we’re in a period where women’s rights are being attacked and their voices are being silenced and marginalized. Let’s change this by taking an active approach in combating gender discrimination and helping create a world where women have the right and the space for full participation in society.
You can also support students on Women’s Equality Day by sharing women-focused scholarship opportunities for college! Find them using our Scholarship Search tool and with our article on Scholarships for Women.