A Day Is Not Enough
It will take more than a day to recognize, acknowledge, and correct the inequalities against women in the world.
Public awareness days are used to bring attention to important causes that include health, education, and charity. Awareness can be powerful in allowing us to step back and learn about a cause that we may otherwise not be aware. It allows stakeholder groups to rally and share common messaging to further outreach and provide exposure for the issue and increase engagement by individuals who support the cause.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is one such public awareness day. It is a global holiday celebrated on March 8. It is meant to bring attention to issues of gender equity, violence, abuse against women, and equal rights. The earliest version was “Women’s Day” organized by the Socialist Party of America in New York City on February 28, 1909. In 1910 the International Socialist Women’s Conference proposed “a special Women’s Day” to be organized annually, but no set date was proposed. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, International Women’s Day was made a national holiday on March 8. IWD became a mainstream global holiday following its adoption by the United Nations in 1977.1
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) U.S. Medical School Faculty2 and rank report indicates there are three times the number of professors who are men compared to women. Within otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, the proportional representation of women full professors has been unchanged for the past 35 years. It is predicted that if current trends continue, there likely will not be an equal number of full professors in surgery who are men and women until 2096. Many of us will not be around to see if the prediction comes to fruition. Otolaryngology is in the top five specialties with the largest gender gap in salary (21% less than colleagues who are men). The other four are oral and maxillofacial surgery (23% less), allergy and immunology (21% less), pediatric nephrology (20% less), and thoracic surgery (20% less).3
In the world today, employed women earn 83% of men’s salary. Only 5% of CEOs are women, and women compose only 28% of corporate boards. In a recent Harris Poll, 86% of millennial women agree, “Women contribute more to society than they get back.” Furthermore, 74% of women said, “Society treats women like second-class citizens,” and, “The deck is stacked against women (societal systems are not set up to help women advance and move forward).” Additionally, 60% said, “People are generally not accepting of women advancing into positions of power.”4
The issues of leadership and salary equity may be considered first-world problems when considering what has happened to women in Afghanistan. In December 2022, the ruling Taliban forbade education for girls past the sixth grade. This action has been termed by an educator in Afghanistan as “educational apartheid.” The United Nations said Afghanistan under the Taliban government is the “most repressive country in the world” for women’s rights.5 Currently, 80% of school-aged Afghan girls and young women, or over 2.5 million people, are being denied access to education.
Iran in July 2022 instituted a “hijab and chastity” decree prioritizing hijab enforcement. In September 2022, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian, was arrested while she was visiting the city with her family. The Morality Police detained her for “improper” hijab, and she was thrown into a van and her family was later told she suffered a heart attack and died a few days later.
The crossed hands symbol of IWD is meant to show solidarity, commitment to calling out bias, breaking stereotypes, inequality, and rejecting discrimination. The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) is committed to gender equity in all activities planned. This includes opportunities for leadership, academic growth, committee participation, and podium presentations. The Women in Otolaryngology (WIO) Section continue to support and further growth within the AAO-HNS.
A day is not enough to recognize and acknowledge the inequities against women in the world. It will take more than a day to maintain focus on the issue and take meaningful action to correct the gender bias and inequities, violence, and discrimination that is present nationally and globally. Everyone needs to be aware, recognize injustice, and take action. A day is not enough.
I appreciate you!
- United Nations. (n.d.). Background | International Women's Day. United Nations. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from https://www.un.org/en/observances/womens-day/background
- 2022 U.S. Medical School Faculty. AAMC. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/faculty-institutions/interactive-data/2022-us-medical-school-faculty
- 2021 Physician Compensation Report. Doximity. Retrieved March 16, 2023. https://c8y.doxcdn.com/image/upload/v1/Press%20Blog/Research%20Reports/Doximity-Compensation-Report-2021.pdf.
- America this week wave 159. Harris Poll. (2023, March 15). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from https://theharrispoll.com/briefs/america-this-week-wave-159/
- United Nations. (n.d.). Afghanistan now 'most repressive country' for women, Security Council hears | UN news. United Nations. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/03/1134352