Sunday, March 8, was International Women's Day, and I spontaneously spent the day doing exactly what needed to be done: I went home.
My family is matriarchal. My great-great grandmother, great-grandmother, grandmother, and now my mother have all headed our predominantly female family. For generations, my predecessors have raised their family while working and living beneath the poverty line in rural Kentucky.
Being raised by a group of hard-working women who struggled to give me an equal opportunity has shaped my personality and values. Given my background, gender equality has naturally become an important issue to me. It baffled me to learn that women are paid less than men, and I could not understand why women were less likely to be promoted.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.
In the grand scheme of things, gender inequality harms women, which eventually diffuses through families, communities and societies. According to Kathleen Gerson, a Sociology professor at New York University, there are two ingredients to creating gender equality, including notions of equal opportunity in the economy (i.e. school/work) and family support policies (i.e. childcare). These policies not only incorporate women into the workforce, but also incorporate men into the home as caretakers, promoting greater economic stability and overall social health.
As a future health professional I think gender equality will impact our health care system. Issues in women's healthcare are already on the forefront, alongside the Affordable Care Act. Implementing family planning and support policies related to women's healthcare, such as free access to birth control, maternity leave and breastfeeding support, will give women more control of their livelihood.
The movement for gender equality gains more attention, particularly the HeforShe movement heralded by UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson. We will begin to see signs of improvement, but unfortunately shifting the mindset of society will take time. Until then, I will continue to exemplify the strength and resilience of the women in my family, and advocate for solidarity.