Recognize and Recommit During Women’s History Month

By Mary Lee Kiernan

As we mark Women’s History Month during March, let’s recognize and recommit to tackling the barriers to women’s equality and advancement in our communities and our workplaces, on the local, national and international level. All forms of violence against women and deeply entrenched gender biases work to create profound barriers to the progress of women at every stage of their lives.

According to a group of studies by McKinsey, one of the biggest barriers to the advancement of women everywhere is violence against women in all its many forms. At YWCA Greenwich, the local accredited provider of domestic violence, and more recently, sexual violence services, we view all these forms of violence along a spectrum of behaviors that often overlap and recur. All these forms of aggression and violence, from harassment and stalking, to emotional abuse, legal abuse, financial abuse, digital abuse and physical violence create ongoing and profound damage that strip survivors of their personal agency, mental and emotional well-being, physical safety, and the financial means to move forward with their lives along a stable and positive path.

While these forms of violence are perpetrated against all genders at all ages, those who identify as women are overwhelmingly the victims. Women ages 18-25 and 25-34 are particularly vulnerable to intimate partner violence. Children are direct and indirect victims of this violence, and they often repeat the violence and abuse that they witnessed in their youth. Sadly, successive generations of families and communities in this country and around the world normalize violence and abuse against women that prevent generations of women from gaining basic freedoms, dignity and opportunities for sustainable achievement and independence.

Entrenched gender biases – both explicit and implicit — also create profound barriers to the advancement of women in their communities and workplaces. Gender bias shows up in a variety of forms, such as devaluing women’s contributions and work; preferential treatment in hiring, promotions and assignments; and stereotyping women’s accomplishments and roles.

These impacts are further exacerbated by race and ethnicity, as racial and gender biases
combine to create larger disparities in a variety of outcomes for women of color.

Organizations such as YWCAs, institutions and businesses everywhere need to name and eradicate gender bias, particularly for women of color, continue to educate about the insidious impact of gender bias, and regularly celebrate the accomplishments of women.

That is why this month and every year, YWCA Greenwich dedicates an important public event and all of Women’s History Month to raising up the stories and celebrating the
accomplishments of dynamic women in our community and our country. At the recent YWCA Greenwich Women Who Inspire Awards, we honored twelve women and three young women—all inspirational leaders who have records of outstanding achievement, innovation and positive impact on their communities, workplaces, local institutions and schools.

The 2024 Women Who Inspire Award winners are Shari Aser, Dr. Maria Asnis, Debbie Katz, Leslie Moriarty, Eliza Niblock, Pam Pagnani, Lauren Rabin, Dr. Kisha Mitchell Richards, Dr. Danielle Robinson, Deb Rogan, Elisa Wilson and Leslie Yager. Our Next Generation Women Who Inspire honorees are Natalie Cook from Greenwich Academy, Nia Forbes from Greens Farms Academy and Francesca Maranji from Sacred Heart Greenwich. They join an impressive sisterhood of past winners of the Women Who Inspire, BRAVA and Spirit of Greenwich awards who have quite literally shaped this community, leaving their mark on businesses, organizations, non-profits, schools, museums, hospitals, government and all our neighbors, young and old, strong and vulnerable. We were honored to have Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, share her journey and help celebrate these phenomenal women at the
awards event.

Please join us in congratulating these 2024 Women Who Inspire honorees, celebrating their stories and recognizing their impact and achievements. During Women’s History Month, let’s recommit to working toward a future for women that is free from abuse, violence and profound gender bias. Let’s remember the stories of women who came before us, women whose shoulders we stand on, and create communities and workplaces where women and young women can thrive with equal opportunities for achievement and advancement.