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Women make history every day – let’s remove the barriers that stand in their way

From the very first graduate of the University of Washington to policymakers, scientists, entrepreneurs, educators and pathbreakers of all kinds, the UW has been home to countless women who have made – and are making – history. National Women’s History Month, celebrated in March, is our annual opportunity to learn about the women, Huskies and otherwise, who have changed the world for the better and to continue to widen the pathways for women to achieve even more.

Globally, women have made enormous progress in advancing gender equity, but persistent barriers – including education in many parts of the world, as well as fair pay, economic opportunity and health equity, continue to prevent women from fully realizing their hopes and ambitions. In the United States, for example, where women now hold the majority of bachelor’s degrees, we still see profound disparities in the percentage of women who are CEOs, corporate board members, and receiving capital investment to launch innovative new startups.

These inequities not only hurt women’s achievement, they harm all of us. Too often, support for diversity, equity and gender parity is seen as a nice-to-have that is distinct from meaningful progress in addressing grand societal challenges. But the solutions to every complex challenge, from climate change to global health to economic prosperity, in fact require diverse perspectives and approaches. Women have always shared an equal – or even greater – stake in the consequences of societal challenges. As stakeholders, we also bring innovative solutions and new ways of thinking to the table.

One of the ways we can honor the women who have overcome obstacles and shattered glass ceilings is to keep examining how our University and society can break down the persistent gender-based barriers that work against women’s full participation in tackling the challenges we all face. The pay gap, workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, attacks on reproductive freedom and lack of affordable childcare are just a few of the issues that contribute to an unequal playing field for women, which in turn hurts everyone by slowing down the progress we could be making together.

The UW is committed to advancing gender equity and diversity in all aspects of our community. It’s reflected in our University leadership, in our student leaders, on the court and the field, and in the work happening across the University to infuse equity into every project and collaboration that we undertake. Integral to that work is acknowledging that progress for women has been uneven and that true equity depends on including the voices, ideas and experiences of people of diverse races, ethnicities, sexualities, abilities, and other intersectional identities.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us also rededicate ourselves to creating a more equitable and just society in which women and all people, have the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the greater good.