Sunday, July 14, 2024

International Women’s Day Calls for Deeper Commitment to Women

by Kylie Gursky
| March 6, 2024 12:00 AM

March 8 is International Women’s Day. It is a time to celebrate women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements and mark a call to action to accelerate women’s equality.

This day is significant for us at the Women’s Foundation of Montana as our work focuses on providing individuals across the state with the tools and opportunity to shape a future for themselves that isn’t held back by their gender.

We are excited that this year marks our 25th anniversary. As we look back on the past 25 years of our work and women's lives then and now, it is no surprise that women face different challenges than they did decades ago.

 In some ways, the lives of women are significantly better. Since 1999, Montana passed laws better protecting women who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Advocates fought for and won better legal protections for nursing mothers. Montana removed offensive terms referring to women from state lands. In 2010, voters approved a rate cap on payday loans, an industry where single moms are overrepresented as customers. And in 2023, Montana policymakers invested $14 million to help make child care more affordable for families and expanded Medicaid to include 12 months of postpartum care.

This is meaningful progress. However, in the past few years, we have experienced events that heightened the inequalities that women face at home and in the workplace. By this time in history and our lives, women should be equal to men in every part of society, yet we are still held back in many aspects of life.

 Most women in Montana still do not have paid family leave, whether to care for a new baby or an aging parent. We still have a significant gender pay gap, partially caused by women’s lack of access to capital and overrepresentation in lower-paying jobs. Every county in Montana needs more quality, affordable childcare. Indigenous women continue to face severe maternal health disparities. We need to continue to protect access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.

While the work that needs to be done can feel overwhelming, there are incredible organizations and leaders around the state committed to improving the lives of women. The Women’s Foundation of Montana is proud to witness this dedication, and we are proud to fund many women-led organizations doing the work that will impact women and children for generations to come.

As we acknowledge a day like International Women’s Day, celebrating might feel complicated. However, I have hope for brighter years ahead. The Montana I know is filled with women who do the hard work of caring for their families, neighbors, and communities every day. The Montana I know values the gifts residents bring to our state regardless of their gender.

It’s time to bring women back together to make our collective voices heard. When elected leaders and community members hear directly from women, especially those with diverse perspectives often not heard in the media or the halls of government, attitudes and opinions change.

I ask all fellow Montanans to deepen your support of the women in our state. Make a special effort to frequent women-owned businesses. Channel your charitable dollars to women-led nonprofits working to make the future brighter for the women and girls in our state. And support women as they step into local and state government leadership positions.

Every corner of Montana will benefit when we all can learn from the talents, experience, and leadership of women.

Kylie Gursky is the director of the Women’s Foundation of Montana.