It’s been a long road, with many miles yet to go: This Monday marks the 110th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a rallying point for feminists worldwide to raise awareness for the ongoing struggle for equality. First celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911, it was a major flashpoint from the get go: In Vienna alone, 20,000 marched along the Ring demanding the Frauenwahlrecht (women’s suffrage) and equal rights for women, with the former granted 7 years later in 1918. But the work is far from done: While in recent years, movements such as #MeToo placed gender equality firmly on society’s agenda, the COVID-crisis has once again allowed systemic problems like domestic violence and gendered care work to spread.
Indeed, the global pandemic is more than just a health crisis: The lockdowns have deepened gender disparities and reinforced traditional gender roles as women are caught between homeschooling, remote office, household chores and care work. A recent survey carried out by the Bertelsmann Stiftung in Germany shows that 69% of women said they were doing the majority of domestic chores during the pandemic, as opposed to 11% of men. The same holds true for homeschooling and childcare, with more than half of women stating they were solely responsible for both.
In Austria, unemployment rates among women saw a stronger increase in 2020 than those among men, as reported by Statistik Austria. While in early 2020, more men lost their jobs due to large-scale closures, women did not rejoin the workforce in the same numbers as men did later that year. But while the pandemic has hit women hard, gender inequality is nothing new: In 2019, women in Austria earned 19.9% less per working hour than men –significantly higher than the EU average of 14.1%. And while the situation has improved in the past decade, Austria still has the third-largest gender pay gap in the EU, surpassed only by Latvia and Estonia.
This year will see most International Women’s day events go online, with the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge, encouraging organizations and individuals alike to challenge gender bias and inequality.
Do you feel ready to #ChooseTheChallenge and get involved? Here are 7 ways to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021
- A panel discussion presented by International Women’s Day and Indeed tackles the topics of women in the workplace and smashing the glass ceiling. Mar 8, 13:00; free registration here.
- The City of Vienna is offering several online events, ranging from talks on mental health and cyber violence to yoga classes and workshops for women of all ages. Find all events (in German) here.
- The UN is hosting an online screening and discussion of The Heat – A Kitchen (R)evolution, an award-winning film about a new generation of women blazing a trail through the macho wilderness of celebrity chefs. Mar 10, 19:00; register here by Mar 8, 17:00.
- The Austrian weekly magazine Profil will hold a talk on the impact of COVID on gender roles on Mar 8; the panel is in German and can be viewed online after registering here.
- The Austrian animated film festival Tricky Women/Tricky Realities will screen animated films by women online from March 10-14.
- You can also show support by donating to organizations like the Frauenhäuser Wien, which provide safe houses and counseling for victims of abuse.
- And above all: Look after yourself and the women around you. If you have questions or concerns about mental health and domestic abuse, here’s our guide to support you can get in Vienna and Austria.