International Women's Day

Sometimes I write about things I don’t know about. Some times I write about things I REALLY don’t know about. Today might just be one of those days.

Today has been declared International Women’s Day. Surprisingly the day is receiving more press in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa than it is receiving in the United States. The theme this year is #PressforProgress. The call is to press forward and progress gender parity. The 2017 World Economic Forum released a Global Gender Gap Report that claimed that gender parity is over 200 years away.

We’ve been talking about equal pay for equal work for all of my active career. Women have been speaking out for equal access fo employment and career choices. But it seems that we still live in a world where the system is rigged in favor of men.

My own personal experience is that an increasing number of my colleagues are women. They are competent, capable and strong pastors and leaders for our churches. But I know that there are denotations that still do not ordain women and do not accept women in leadership roles. That seems foreign in our denomination, where our first women was ordained in 1853, but It was 125 years before ordination was common in Protestant denominations. I have, however, been told that the increase in women in church leadership corresponds with the decline in compensation for pastors. The more our profession slides in terms of recognition and compensation, the more women rise to positions of leadership. Or perhaps it is the other way around.

Still, the denomination that was first in the United States to ordain a woman has yet to elect a woman as its General Minister and President - the top executive position in the church’s national setting. We may have been first to ordain, but have fallen behind our colleagues when it comes to full sharing of leadership.

Our profession, however, is hardly the standard by which the role of women in society is judged. When it comes to top compensation for executives, the church isn’t the place to look.

The #MeToo movement against male harassment has received a lot of press in the US and elsewhere and it does seem to be gaining momentum as the entertainment industry, politics, and big business have been forced to come to grips with many examples of sexual harassment that have been allowed to continue making workplaces inhospitable for women. For too long we’ve turned a blind eye to allegations of harassment. Clearly 2017 and 2018 have been years of women saying, “No longer!” Famous people have been forced to resign and have had to give up power because of the courage and actions of their victims.

Still, there are plenty of victims whose claims are ignored and whose voices go unheard.

It would be easy to write an essay that cited examples of discrimination and unjust practices that make women victims. However, my life has been blessed with many strong, capable women who have provided examples and leadership. It is essential that we listen to the victims when harassment occurs, but it is also important to recognize women who have risen above the elements in society that seek to unfairly hold them back.

The BBC series 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. BBC creates documentaries, features and interview about their lives giving space to stories that put women at the center. The series celebrates contributions and leadership from women around the world.

I have personally been blessed to have grown up among strong women. My parents were business partners and shared both the tasks of income earning and homemaking. Theirs was a relationship that was forged by the times in which they lived and it was by no means free from stereotypical gender roles, but when I became an adult, I discovered that there were many families where the woman took a back seat to her husband. Such was not the case with our mother. She had strong opinions and knew how to express them. She had business skills upon which our father depended as together they grew their business. She managed over three decades of widowhood with intelligence and competency.

I also grew up among sisters and knew that there were boundaries and limits to my behavior. There was, I am sure, a certain amount of privilege that came from being the first boy in the family, but I learned from an early age and respecting my sisters, their space and their lives was essential to being a part of our family.

I have been very fortunate to be married with a wife who is also a colleague, whose intelligence, skill and wisdom have provided leadership to our family in so many ways. Like our parents before us, we are affected by the culture in which we live, but we have been blessed by living in a time of increased awareness of the roles of women and increased assess for women to positions of responsibility and power.

I am the father of an amazing daughter whose courage and maturity inspire me daily.

So it seems natural to me to celebrate International Women’s Day. I know that all people, men and women, benefit from the progress that is being made towards women’s equality. It is a day that is not set aside for women, but a day that benefits all humanity.

In a way it seems a bit trivial for it to be only one day. Every day, in a way, is an appropriate day to acknowledge the leadership provided by women and to engage in action for equality for all people.

International Women’s Day was started by women who sought the right to vote in the early 1900’s. The Suffragettes brought both persistence and patience to their cause and refused to accept the doors slammed in their faces and the selfishness of men who sought to exclude them from the political process. Their leadership is essential to the lives we live today.

So today, I claim International Women’s Day as a day for all people and a day to recommit to making every day a day of positive difference for women and for all people.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!