This week we celebrated International Women's Day which gave us the opportunity to take stock of their place in society: the problems they face, but also the horizons that are opening up more and more, despite the fact that the COVID era has been one of the worst times for women in recent decades.
Millions lost their jobs, resulting in a significant reduction in family income, as many families (regardless of whether they are one or two-parent households) are heavily reliant on a woman's wages. This could be due to the fact that many women work in the hospitality and food sectors, such as restaurants, where the losses have been massive. The participation of women in the labor market fell to 57% – its lowest point for at least a few decades.
Millions more, with schools closed, have added to their already busy schedules all-day childcare, leaving no free time for themselves.
It is therefore logical that women feel the weight of the pandemic to a greater degree than their counterparts, which includes the additional financial burden and other effects it has on each family.
But we have many reasons to be optimistic, reasons to have hope as we celebrate Women's Month.
It is obvious that in the past year more and more women have reached top positions in society. From the U.S. Vice President, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and countless other cases here and internationally.
These are conquests that a few years ago would have been considered pipe dreams.
There has been such great progress that we are approaching the point that such feats will not even make headlines. It will soon not seem so impressive to hear about another woman running one of the largest companies in the U.S. or even that a woman has become President of the U.S., 101 years after they were given the right to vote. It will no longer be novel. The headlines will focus on their vision and their qualifications, and not on whether or not they identify as a woman.
Also, let's not underestimate the importance of the #MeToo movement that started a few years ago here in the U.S. and has spread to many parts of the world.
This is a major development which helps give women who have been sexually abused the platform to share their stories, giving strength to others to do the same, punishing or embarrassing the culprits, and making other would-be abusers think twice about their actions.
The labor market is also manifesting more equality between men and women.
More and more a woman is judged on the basis of her qualifications, her talents, and not on the basis of her appearance or her gender.
These are indeed almost revolutionary changes.
Unfortunately, for many women around the world, sexual harassment is still a part of life. It is treated as a kind of ‘right’ that men have over them.
It is beyond the imagination of women in countries like Afghanistan and elsewhere to report a man for sexual harassment. They would be condemned for it.
Relatedly and unfortunately, instead of forced marriages declining everywhere, for girls in many parts of the world they are increasing.
But this is how human progress always is achieved.
It starts in one country or community and spreads little by little. There are few taking action in the beginning, but soon they are joined by others who are emboldened and determined, and then the movement gains momentum and spreads change throughout society.
Of course, great care is needed because it is easy for a woman or a man to accuse someone unjustly and/or for ulterior motives.
This need for vigilance is part of the price a society pays in the unceasing struggle for a free, dignified, fair, and happy life for all.
But women often continue to carry a disproportionate burden in society, and this must be addressed in every possible way.
On the other hand, the pleasant thing is that more and more women are winning higher statuses in society. They have waited and deserved these positions for a long time.