Women may be graduating from U.S. colleges faster than men (3:2), but American women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar that men earn, and fill only 14 percent of Fortune 500 boardroom seats!
In Australia, which has one of the highest educated female populations in the world, the needle on the gender wage gap has hardly moved for 20 years, with women citing a lack of affordable childcare as a major deterrent to returning to work after children (some women work for as little as $3.44 an hour when they return to full-time work after having children.)
In China, where Mao once famously declared that 'women hold up half the sky,' only 13.2% of married women have homes in their own names and the gender income gap is widening. Yes, widening! I could go on listing the disturbing statistics for women around the globe, but I hardly need to. A large gender gap still exists, even in the many of the most educated countries (outside Scandinavia!), despite the compelling economic case for greater gender equality in business, government, community and society at large.
Closing the gender gap isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do!
Which begs the question: Why, 50 years since the feminist movement took flight, do women still lag behind men on near every single measure that matters?
There is a complex web of social, cultural, institutional and economic factors that contribute to the current status quo for women around the globe - whether in American boardrooms or African market stalls. However, the case for the social and economic empowerment of women far transcends the importance of social justice; it's siren call for greater gender equality. It's about harnessing the full quota of talent, creativity, emotional intelligence and ingenuity that women possess in abundance to ensure a better future for everyone - men and women alike. Closing the gender gap and creating genuine gender equality isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do!
Given the status quo, we are right to look to leaders in positions of power and influence to proactively champion for change at a policy and structural level. However, we cannot, and must not, rely on them alone. Rather we must each take personal responsibility for doing what we can, however little it may seem, to forge change and stand against gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping when and wherever we see it.
Lift as you climb. We can do more together than we ever can alone.
To that end, in marking this year's International Women's Day I invite every woman reading this article to consider what more you can do to advance yourself and other women to become stronger catalysts for change. To quote an African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
And to every man (yes, you're an equally important part of the solution), I invite you to reflect on where your biases may be perpetuating the challenges women face. Social norms may be entrenched in our psyche but that doesn't mean we can't change them. So I encourage you to encourage the women around you to try things they may not be confident at (after all, the 'confidence gap' helps to prop up the equality gap), and to help with the traditional "women's chores" (which your father never did!) and offer practical help on the home front that so many women find in such short supply. As a working mother of four, I know too well that sometimes those little things (like emptying the dishwasher and taming the laundry!) can make the biggest difference.
Of course not all is doom and gloom. As a woman I feel very fortunate to be living in this time in history. So this International Women's Day, let's celebrate how far we've come and the opportunity to make a more meaningful impact in the world than many of our mothers and grandmothers could ever dream of.
This post is part of a blog series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with International Women's Day, celebrated on March 8, 2016. A What's Working series, the posts address solutions tied to the United Nations' theme for International Women's Day this year: "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality." To view all of the posts in the series, click here.