Why You Should Care About Women, in Birmingham and in Boston

Photo Credit (taken at the Boston’s Women’s March) by the amazing Alice Donovan Rouse http://alicekat.com/

In case you missed it, this week Alabama passed a law that both prohibits women from getting abortions (even in cases of rape or incest) and threatens doctors who continue providing abortion care to women with significant financial penalties. If you’re outraged, you should be. The law threatens the very health and safety of women, and at its core reflects a broader political swing that makes parallels to the Handmaid’s Tale both plausible and frightening.

To be clear, I’m angry on behalf of women in Birmingham, and will be donating and supporting the organizations nationally and locally doing work to challenge the legislation on legal grounds. But I also want to be sure Bostonians don’t lose sight of women’s issues and access in our own backyards as part of this conversation.

This year on International Women’s Day, Hired released a report calling out that Boston has the highest gender wage gap of any US city at 9%. It got a few pieces of media coverage, but didn’t spark the outrage it should have. The domestic violence epidemic rages on, and Rachel Louise Snyder rightly notes that Massachusetts, while an early adopter of spousal abuse legislation, rarely enforces its own laws on the topic. And on the issue of the incarceration of women, while behind the rest of the US, our female incarceration rates still outpace any other developed nation.

Simply put, if you’re worried about women’s rights in Birmingham, you should be. I am too.But if what’s happening in Birmingham feels far away, it’s not. You should also be concerned about women’s rights in your own backyard, regardless of where you live. It’s often said that all politics are local, and I happen to agree with that sentiment. But when it comes to thinking about fundamental human rights and access, I find sometimes people rally toward outrage in other places more readily than our own.

So if you’re angry, know you’re not alone. Let’s channel that anger into action, and not just in Alabama. A few options to consider:

  1. Donate to the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama (I’m going to follow Ashley Mayer’s lead and do that today) and consider donating to Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts to help support the rights of women throughout Massachusetts to affordable and safe healthcare. Here is a handy guide to organizations throughout the US in the event that you want to act locally but don’t live in Massachusetts.
  2. Pay women at your organization equally. Full disclosure: I’m part of the Women’s Workforce Council and one of my goals for this year is to focus specifically on supporting women of color and equal pay access. Ask if your organization has signed the Talent Compact and if they have a plan to support gender wage equality, and if not, how and when it will be a priority.
  3. Donate to YW Boston, an organization focused on fighting racism and gender inequality here in greater Boston, or attend one of their events to learn more about how you can support amazing women and women of color locally. We are hosting a Women Who Lead event at HubSpot in June highlighting local female entrepreneurs of color, come join us and/or support their businesses this month and always.

Kofi Annan once said “gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It’s a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.” He’s right — women’s rights are fundamentally connected to every issue of equity and access in our society. This is a global issue with profound local impact, and there’s no better time for all of us to make our voices heard on this issue and take inspired action.

Chief People Officer at HubSpot. Proud graduate of Bates College, MIT Sloan, and Space Camp. On the interwebs @katieburkie

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