Celebrated as the month-long reflection of the “contributions women have made to the United States and [recognition of] the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields,” Women’s History Month has been a national celebration during the month of March since 1981. This year’s theme – challenge the status quo – challenges us as a society to call out gender bias and inequality, driving toward a more inclusive and gender-equal world.
PTC’s own celebration of Women’s History Month reflects the same theme. On International Women’s Day 2021, PTC hosted a “Choose to Challenge” panel discussion with PTC leadership on addressing gender biases, the challenges women have faced during the pandemic, and advice on moving forward. The event, hosted by the Women of PTC (WoPTC) employee resource group (ERG), kicked off a series of PTC-sponsored events throughout the month of March.
To find out more about how PTC is celebrating Women’s History Month, I sat down with WoPTC executive sponsor, Aaron von Staats, PTC General Counsel, EVP. Let’s take a look:
When you talk about the history of Women’s History Month, you’re talking about two separate but related events: 1) International Women’s Day, and 2) Women’s History Month.
The former is a worldwide day, held annually March 8th, that has been recognized for more than 100 years, while the latter is an annual recognition in the United States. Both are designed to celebrate the achievements of women and raise awareness of gender inequality – and both are important because they cause us to focus on the status of women in our society, recognizing contributions and successes and understanding challenges.
So, it starts by looking at the positive trends and achievements that we’re seeing in 2021. Today, there are more women in Congress than ever before, and, equally important, the highest percentage of women in a presidential cabinet in history – including the first woman and the first person of color to serve as vice president. Similarly, there are more women on U.S. corporate boards than ever, as well as women increasing their presence in roles traditionally held by men (for example, we saw the first woman NFL Super Bowl referee this year!).
But it’s not enough to reflect on achievements – we need to acknowledge, at the same time, that there are significant challenges that remain. Using the same examples as above, we still do not have 50% representation for women at the congressional, presidential cabinet, or corporate board levels. We still have not elected a woman as president. We still see a significant pay gap between men and women and, as has been well documented, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on working mothers.
Throughout the month of March, WoPTC has organized a series of activities related to four core areas:
The idea is that, through engaging, collaborative, and thought-provoking discussions and activities, we can celebrate women’s achievements while elevating and supporting women across PTC. This is, in fact, the mission of Women at PTC: professional development for women at PTC in a supportive environment.
Take, for example, the mentorship program organized by WoPTC. Beyond the traditional pairing of junior employees with senior leaders, WoPTC is running a workshop this month called “Dare to Ask,” which focuses on advocating for yourself in the workplace. It’s part of a broader effort on career building skills and it complements some of the month’s networking activities (fitness Bingo and a “Think and Drink” themed happy hour).
An ironic consequence of remote working is that it has actually improved collaboration across WoPTC. When the pandemic hit, members of WoPTC got together regularly to talk about their daily lives and experience with remote working, ultimately opening up a new platform (Microsoft Teams) for connecting.
Prior to COVID, WoPTC activities were mostly local, in-person events – after all, that’s how we previously connected, networked, and shared ideas. When we no longer had the ability to meet in person, WoPTC realized that a virtual platform like Teams can be used to connect and expand WoPTC globally, meaning this month’s selection of events in celebration of Women’s History Month can be offered to a global audience.
With Women’s History Month officially underway, it’s time to reflect on the achievements of women throughout history while recognizing and addressing the barriers to gender equality at the same time. On behalf of the Women at PTC ERG, happy Women’s History Month!