A message to women: We must be our own advocates in closing the gender gap

A female must function in a world that all too often treats her like prey, clips her wings, and burdens her with fear and shame.

The recent challenges to women have reopened discussions about harassment, gender, and power. The struggle with stereotypes against girls who are intelligent and articulate, who speak up for themselves, and who are active members of school and society, is very real.

The World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap Report finds that while women worldwide are closing the gender gap in areas such as health and education, inequality persists in the workplace and politics.  

However, the data also shows that when women are present and in leadership roles, more women are hired at all levels. This holds true even when taking into consideration the disparities in the size of female talent pools across various industry sectors.

As president of a locally based nonprofit that works internationally, I recognize I can be a leader in challenging the status quo and pressing for progress.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality.

Right now, it is estimated that gender parity across the world will take 217 years. That equates to the year 2235. We must do better.

Women must have opportunities to be represented as powerful figures, from politicians, to directors, to musicians. There is not enough being done to change the view of “girl.”  Each of us, working together, can initiate change.

We want women and girls to be aware of their strength and potential. We want to promote an environment that fosters self-confidence, creativity, and teamwork.

While we need men as our allies, we must be our own advocates – both for ourselves as well as for each other. We must speak up. We must speak out. We must stand together.

Melinda Gates said, “A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.”

Having a voice can be a challenge when we, as women, are constantly being told we are not valued and when sexism is institutionalized in many spaces across our society and culture.

But our silence will be interpreted as our acceptance.

I’ve been able to rise to a leadership role as a female by having the courage to find my voice and connect that voice to causes I believe in.

I encourage you to give, get and gather. Give your time to issues that matter to women, get a mentor who can give you support and provide perspective, and gather fellow females and allies to join you in raising our collective voice.


Kerri Murray is President of ShelterBox USA, an international disaster relief charity that delivers shelter and essential supplies to people affected by natural disaster or conflict. Murray serves as President of the GIRLS ROCK Santa Barbara Board of Directors. She is also a member of the Rotary Club of Montecito. Murray has more than eight years of experience as a nonprofit executive following a 13-year career with GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. She regularly speaks on issues of philanthropy, international development, and female empowerment. She resides in Santa Barbara with her 14-year old daughter. She can be reached at kmurray@shelterboxusa.org.

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