Several public school districts in the U.S. will be forced to close classrooms Wednesday after teachers said they would skip school to participate in “A Day Without a Woman” strike to protest President Donald Trump.
In Alexandria, Virginia, which is located just outside Washington, 16 public schools will close Wednesday to accommodate the public employees’ strike. In North Carolina, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district said it would close all 20 of its schools because teachers so many teachers are planning to strike.
A Day Without a Woman strike was promoted by the same organizers behind January’s Women’s March on Washington, which saw millions of people take to the streets in cities across the U.S in protest a day after Trump’s inauguration.
It is meant to coincide with Wednesday’s celebration, International Women’s Day, which will see women around the world participate in speaking events, festivals other such observances.
Earlier this year, Chapel Hill-Carrboro education officials asked teachers and staff how many absences would occur and the “number was significant,” the district said in a statement.
“In fact, it is my determination that we will not have enough staff to safely run our school district," school Superintendent Jim Causby said.
Similarly, Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Crawley said the school district would have to close Wednesday because of an “unusually high number” of teachers choosing not to work.
Crawley said the decision to close schools wasn’t “based on a political stance,” but instead “based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms.”
Conservative Karin Agness, founder of Network of Enlightened Women, said she thinks the strike is more of a media strategy than about actually advancing women.
"Striking is not the way to advance women in the workplace or in society," Agness said. "If they are really concerned about women in the workplace, they could have come up with some more concrete actions that really would have made a difference."
Events planned across US
Wednesday’s women’s strike is part of hundreds of events planned across America to coincide with International Women’s Day.
In Detroit, a group of professional women are gathering for a Sip and Sushi, where they will enjoy a day of “tea, sushi, networking and more,” according to an event posting on the International Women’s Day website.
Africa Femmes Performantes Inc. will host its eighth annual Business Inspiring Women Conference in Washington, which it bills as an “open debate between governments, international organizations and businesses.”
In New York, a coalition of activist groups is planning a march that will travel past several important landmarks in the women’s rights movement.
International events Wednesday include an all-female kickboxing tournament in Toronto, Canada, a 10K fun run in Brisbane, Australia, that will see 10,000 women run through the city’s streets, and a literature festival in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, centered on gender equality.
Day has long history
According to its website, International Women’s Day has been observed since the 1900s, when a group of about 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City to demand shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. The original event was organized by the Socialist Party of America.
Since then, the event has morphed into “a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity,” the website says.
Women have made great strides in achieving equality since the first International Women’s Day, and the strike Wednesday is meant to illustrate just how important women have become in modern society.
There are 22 female world leaders currently in power – more than any other time in history.
Women currently make up about 44 percent of total employees at S&P 500 companies and hold 29 CEO positions at those companies – another record high, according to numbers compiled by Catalyst, a nonprofit group that promotes gender diversity. The 29 current female CEOs mark a 31 percent increase over 2015, when only 22 women led S&P 500 companies.
Advances need to be made in politics as well, said Rachel Thomas, national press secretary for Emily’s List, an influential pro-choice group.
Just 104 women, accounting for about 20 percent of the total, hold seats in the U.S. Congress in 2017: 21 women in the Senate, and 83 women in the House of Representatives.
“We make up over half the country, but right now we are less than 20 percent of Congress, that is not enough," Thomas said. "When you don’t have an equal number or when you don’t have a diverse governing body, you leave out entire swaths of the population through the policies that you enact."
While women are reaching milestone numbers with regards to leadership positions, their numbers are still incredibly low.
The 29 female CEOs represent just 5.8 percent of total CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. Some data also shows that, while women have made major gains in compensation, their salaries still lag behind their male counterparts.
Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that full-time female employees in 2015 made – on average – just 81 percent of what their comparable male colleagues make. Women have made significant gains, though. In 1979, women earned about 62 percent of what comparable male colleagues made, according to the same BLS data.
While these numbers show a gap in male and female earnings, it is important to note that the comparisons are “broad level and do not control for many factors that can be significant in explaining earnings differences, such as job skills and responsibilities, work experience, and specialization,” according to the BLS website.
This apparent discrepancy in compensation is one reason for the continued relevance of the event, according to its organizers.
“The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. This is too long to wait,” their website says. “So around the world, International Women's Day provides an important opportunity for ground breaking action that can truly drive greater change for women.”
Aru Pande contributed to this report.