Culture 07 March 2019
International Women's Day is celebrated globally year each on March 8th, a tradition with roots dating back to the early 1900s. Over a century later, it is now a day both of celebration and community, and of protest and progress, with the United Nations choosing a new theme to focus efforts on annually.
This year, “Balance for Better" is the official IWD campaign tagline, encouraging a gender-balanced world. So where do we see this type of gender discrimination? Boardrooms, government positions, courtrooms, media coverage, paychecks, sports teams, and even day-to-day interactions can be subjected to a gender imbalance where women don't always get equal opportunities.
It's something I encountered in the corporate workplace after becoming a mother, in the early days of fundraising for the company I founded, Kango, and sometimes just walking on the street or waiting for my turn in line. And while I do think that today's youth are more tolerant and accepting of diversity than ever before, it's still so important to make sure we teach our children about the discrimination and social issues that women face - and International Women's Day represents an opportunity to have this discussion with our young ones.
Educate, encourage and inspire them to take the lesson from this holiday and apply it to their everyday life.
Start by having the conversation around the historical milestones that shape why this day is important. Do your sons know that women used to be banned from voting? Imagine not being able to have a say in choosing the lawmakers that directly affect your life. Do your daughters know that even 40 years ago, no woman in the world had ever been a president? Vigdís Finnbogadótti changed that when she was elected President of Iceland in 1980.
Kids might not realize how far equality has come, even in mom and dad's lifetime. Remind them that strong, brave women paved the path thus far, and it will take strong, brave boys and girls to continue the journey for a better balance.
Secondly, think about the implicit biases that you see on a daily basis, and include those in the discussion. Do your sons understand that saying someone “throws like a girl" should not be an insult? Do your daughters know Barbie can be a veterinarian, an accountant, or a doctor? And she can be a mom, too! It might seem silly to be discussing such nuanced gender roles and biases with young kids, but imagine all of the TV shows, movies, and real-life situations they have seen where gender is portrayed in a rigid or outdated way.
Explaining everyday discrimination will show how, outside of IWD, there are opportunities for improvement. Ask your kids what they can do and how they can act to promote respect and equality with their friends. Foster their curiosity and encourage them to be a leader when they see something that isn't right.
Lastly, to make an impact, we as moms have to be conscious of our choices, too. Do we talk about other women negatively? Do we stand up for ourselves and set a good example? Gender equality starts at home, with our own words and actions. When we think of this year's IWD theme, we can not only apply that in a general sense, that gender-balance is important in the workplace and government, but can also apply that to our individual selves by making sure we set a personal standard.
If we want to raise children who celebrate equality, we must celebrate equality, too. Recharge your motivation by attending speeches, meetings, events or even protests throughout the year. Call your local legislator to share your opinion on bills impacting women's rights. Demand that corporations cultivate equality and diversity in their executive positions and throughout their staff.
When you recognize the change that you can create, you show your children how “women's day" can be celebrated every day. Especially with young men, it shows that International Women's Day is not about punishing men or saying women are better - it's about equality for all people.
So when you share the message behind International Women's Day with your children, remind them that it isn't about being “nice" to girls for this one day in March. It's about remembering the past, and working toward a better future. They have the power to be agents of change. Cliché as it sounds, today's youth will be the CEOs, policymakers, and employees of tomorrow. Raise children who know that the power is in their hands to make a difference.
5 Min Read
Sometimes it takes falling to rock bottom in order to be built back up again. I learned this many years ago when the life I'd carefully built for myself and my family suddenly changed. But in those times, you learn to lean on those who love you – a friend, family member or someone who can relate to what you've been through. I was lucky enough to have two incredible women help me through one of my lowest moments. They taught me to love myself and inspired me to pass on their lessons each da
If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today.
In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of three, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.
These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.
After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.
I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.
About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.
I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again.
When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.
Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.
Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.
Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.
This article was originally published September 12, 2019.