International Women’s Day was established to both celebrate the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women, and to encourage all nations to eliminate discrimination against women. The Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah Valley University recently sponsored an event that explored these issues. Valerie Hudson and Sharon Eubank spoke on “The Status of Women Worldwide: Becoming Informed & Empowered as Global Citizens.”
Dr. Hudson, distinguished professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, began her presentation with a simple yet far reaching proposition: How women are treated on a household level reveals how they will be treated in the community, the nation, and the world. She posed four questions that shed light on the relative treatment of women:
1. Do they stand as equals?
2. Will decisions be made as a group?
3. Are resources distributed fairly?
4. Is conflict resolved peacefully or by force?
The more disempowered women are in the home, the more disempowered they are in all other arenas.
But why does it matter? Hudson’s research, which is featured in her latest book, “The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide,” shows that the greater the subordination of women affects not just women, but entire nation states. The worse the subjugation of women, the worse off a country is in 122 measurable areas: governance, health, violence, food security, and on and on. It even correlates to the status of pollution and the environment. Conversely, when women and girls are treated as equals, are part of decisions, have equal access to resources, and not subject to coercion in the home, it lays the groundwork for peace and stability in society. In short, the fate of nations is tied to the status of women.
Eubank also spoke about the status of women around the world and stated her hope that “every single one of us walks out of here with something in your heart that you care a lot about what you’re going to do.” As the director of Latter-day Saint Charities, she has spent decades in the trenches with women from every walk of life. Eubank encouraged people to recognize our interdependence as individuals, as communities, and as countries. We can be tempted to think that helping one person takes something away from us — but “life is not a pie!”
Whether we are helping out at our local elementary school or participating in charities abroad, Eubank shared eight truths that should guide our efforts:
1. Ego has no role in service.
2. Collaboration is key.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak out.
4. Don’t give up!
5. Everyone can do something.
6. There is power in touch and a smile.
7. Never let issues interfere with relationships.
8. Avoid emotional bankruptcy.
As we consider how we can promote the status of women worldwide, I urge you to begin in your home. When women are disadvantaged or even discounted in any way, we all pay the price. And to quote the ever wise Sharon Eubank, “I never want to discount the power of individuals themselves to create change at that family level, and the dynamics of what’s going on in our own families,” she explained. “I think that changes the world.”
Dr. Susan R. Madsen is the Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership & Ethics in the Woodbury School of Business at Utah Valley University and the Founding Director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.