International Women’s Day: Inspiring Inclusion

By Joe Burris, on March 8, 2024 | In Racial Equity

Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration of achievements and a call for equality for women throughout the world. According to the International Women’s Day website, International Women’s Day began in the United States in 1909 and became an international holiday two years later.

International Women’s Day, which coincides with March’s Women’s History Month in the United States, is annually marked by themes to uplift and amplify the holiday’s message. This year’s theme is “Inspire Inclusion.”

According to the International Women’s Day website, the “Inspire Inclusion” theme centers on the belief that “when we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.” The International Women’s Day website calls for everyone to forge a more inclusive world for women.

How does this year’s International Women’s Day theme resonate locally? United Way asked that of our staff as well as attendees at the Gates Foundation’s International Women’s Day Celebration (pictured above). Here’s what they had to say.

“Inspiring inclusion is at the heart of our mission at United Way of King County. For us, it’s not just about promoting diversity, but actively fostering an environment where every voice is heard and valued. One way we inspire inclusion is by promoting open dialogue and listening to the diverse perspectives of our team members. By actively seeking out and embracing differences, we cultivate a culture of belonging where everyone feels empowered to bring their whole selves to work. This commitment to inclusion not only strengthens our organization internally but also enables us to better serve the diverse communities we work with, ensuring that everyone has equitable access to the resources and support they need to thrive.” ~ Alexis Silva, Community and Volunteer Engagement Manager, United Way of King County

“I think, as a white, or white presenting person, one way to inspire inclusion is to listen.  We need to not always be the first or loudest voice. We can’t be listening just to interject our own experience or point of view. We cannot support inclusion if we are not listening to and learning from the people who have been excluded. At the same time, we cannot expect emotional labor from our friends and colleagues of color at our convenience. One way I have tried to learn and to listen is by “decolonizing” my bookshelves to make sure that the voices I hear in non-fiction and even in fiction are not only white voices.” ~ Corey Taylor, Human Resources Business Analyst, United Way of King County

“It really comes from knowing that all voices need to be at the table and be heard. There are things that I experience as a Black woman that others who are not might experience. I don’t use a wheelchair, but somebody who uses a wheelchair brings something to the table that I may never think about. It is so important to include so many different voices and perspectives. So, inclusivity doesn’t just mean race. It means race, ability, sexual orientation, religion—it means all of those things. I try to make sure whatever project I’m working on there is a representation of diverse voices at the table.” ~ Azuredee Webb, Senior Specialist, Grants and Contracts, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“This International Women’s Day, I’m inspired by all the ways women navigate spaces that lack inclusivity. Their varied voices and lived experiences give me the courage to challenge the status quo by confronting societal norms that perpetuate exclusion based on race, LGBTQIA status, disability, body size, or age, to help create spaces where everyone feels welcomed and valued.” ~ Sharon L. Magliano Feliciano, Associate Director of Affinity Marketing, United Way of King County

“Who Run’s the World? GIRLS! We all know that women run the world.  We know that without women in the workplace, running homes, raising the next generations, entire infrastructures would crumble.  Even so, women are still experiencing inequalities and seen as less than equal. How can we, as women, support ourselves and each other, even in small ways to promote inclusivity?  By continually lifting each other up, we create a culture of inclusivity, love ,and positive female power. Here are a few examples of ways we, including men and women, can elevate women:  support other teammates in the workplace, encourage professional growth, nurture personal lives, and promote work/life balance.  Strong female energy begets inclusivity and growth. We must continue to elevate the women in our lives.” ~ Mari Hirabayashi, Manager, Events & Marketing, United Way of King County

“It means making a low barrier for access and ensuring that people have opportunities and don’t have to put in the work in order to get the opportunities that others automatically get.”  ~ Amara Gordon, Marketing Director, Raising Girls

“Inspiring inclusion means: Seeing another, not for how they present, but for who they are. A soul, like any other. No better, no worse. We are all gifts. Temporary sojourners walking this earth yearning for meaning, purpose, belonging, acceptance, relationship, and love. Inspiring inclusion means being real. Real with myself, real with others. Shedding pretense.  Shedding judgment. Showing up, lifting up, opening up, and being willing to encounter another just as they are; so am I.” ~ Marlo Klein, Senior Community Impact Manager, Homelessness Prevention & Indigenous Communities Fund, United Way of King County

“In a world often characterized by competition and comparison, I love Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s words: ‘Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown without telling the world it was crooked.’ For me, ‘inspiring inclusion’ means creating a safe, warm space where sisters encourage, guide, and cheer each other along toward confidence and growth without the need for validation. Our true strength lies in how different we are and how much we can lift each other up to take up the space we deserve. ~ Sneha Konda, Senior Copywriter & Content Strategist, United Way of King County

“Inclusivity is giving women, Native women, an opportunity to have a safe space where they can come together, have conversations that are open, where they can be vulnerable and have opportunities to gather, have fun, smile, and connect with one another.” ~ Iris Friday, Co-Founder, Native Action Network

 “Telling our daughters and two sons when they were young about their great-aunt who grew up in the segregated south, migrated to Seattle, earned a B.A. and master’s degree, with honors, in education from Seattle University, and became the first Black/African-American woman  appointed as a principal in the Seattle School District. Telling our youngsters about the “fun” side of their grandmother who also migrated from segregated small-town Texas to Seattle in the 1940’s (WWII-era).  She was part of a small but growing population of African American who mostly lived in the Central District and were closely connected by their “race” and mostly Southern culture. Telling them about their very beautiful first-cousin-once-removed, who broke barriers as a Black woman flight attendant for United Airlines, fell in love with a (white) French woman from Lyon, became fluent in French, relocated to live the majority of her adult life in France (a few years in Morrocco), and in 2013, when same-gender marriage became legal in France, married her friend and partner of many decades.” ~ Gordon McHenry, Jr., President and CEO, United Way of King County


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