August 26 is more important than you might think: On this date in 1920, the United States passed the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Suddenly, roughly half of the citizens in the United States, who had previously been denied a voice in their government, could make their feelings and opinions heard. Today, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26 to honor this historic occasion and call attention to our continuing efforts to achieve full equality.
The passing of the 19th Amendment paved the way for us to build our lives based on our own vision rather than someone else’s. And while we still fight against wage gaps, gender stereotypes and misogyny, we have a ton to celebrate, too. Black women make up the majority of black students who earn bachelor’s degrees (65 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics). And we’re also the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States – the number of businesses owned by black women grew by 322 percent from 1997 to 2015.
On a more personal note, black women are tasked with balancing a multitude of responsibilities in our daily lives – family, children, work and self. In doing so, we prove we’re among the strongest individuals on the planet.
But Women’s Equality Day is more than just a day to celebrate our wins – it’s also a chance to remember those who fought for us and to focus on the work ahead of us. How can you unite with other women to celebrate and show your appreciation? Here are six ideas:
1. Write a thank-you letter to an influential woman in your life. It doesn’t need to be long – just honest and heartfelt. Sometimes a few words of gratitude go a long way.
2. Support a local business owned by a black woman. August is also Black Business Month! Whether you’re shopping in your city or online, make a point to support a business that a black woman founded. Your local city’s chamber of commerce can help you find local black-owned businesses, and there are also several online directories of local and online black-owned shops.
3. If you have kids, choose a historical female figure to research together. Take a trip to the library and spend an afternoon learning more about her. Then think beyond the books and websites! For instance, you could learn about Barbara “B.” Smith, the first black model to pose for the cover of Mademoiselle, and who later became a lifestyle icon, chef and advocate for healthy living. Before leaving the library, borrow one of her cookbooks from the library, and try a recipe or two with the kids.
4. Form a group for women who share your interests or goals. This could be a walking group, a working moms’ group, an all-women book club, a clothing-swap group – you name it! Use a social meet-up site to help you connect with others who share your interests. Organize an event, recruit your fellow women and show up for each other!
5. Use social media to be vocal about an issue that matters to you. From Twitter to Facebook, social media can be an effective tool to help enact social change. The sheer speed and scale of online communities makes it possible to join a global conversation on a variety of social issues, including gender inequality, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and more. Don’t be afraid to speak up for what you believe in, or to be transparent about your feelings.
6. Mentor a young girl. Do a little online research – the number of local mentorship and after-school programs that already exist might surprise you. Some programs are even aimed specifically at young women of color. Black girls face a number of disparities in our society: For instance, they’re more likely to face poverty than white girls – and be suspended in school. By becoming a positive influence in a young girl’s life, you can provide her with the guidance and support that could make all the difference.
Now more than ever, we need to continue to show the world how strong women truly are. Women’s Equality Day is one opportunity to do so, but the sentiments surrounding the day should carry forth through the rest of the year. We still have ground to cover, and we have to continue fighting against unfair wages, domestic violence, underrepresentation in politics, and gender bias in the workplace. But we have the potential to be utterly unstoppable. Let’s show the world that our strength runs deep.