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We must work to empower women everywhere

by Karlene Sanchez, Contributor

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As we slowly emerge from a month that has consisted of praising women for their many accomplishments, there is still plenty to scrutinize.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day was “Balance for Better,” in hopes to initiate gender balance across the world.

Thinking about gender balance has allowed me to reflect on my own background and ethics, which date back to my childhood experiences, and now as a young adult.

I grew up in a Hispanic household with a traditional Hispanic mother who has been raising her four children with similar values to those of her mother and grandmother.

At a very early age, I acknowledged inequity in the way my brothers and my sister and I were being raised.

It began with simple tasks, such as chores. It’s as obvious as who is assigned to washing the dishes and who is responsible for taking out the trash. Despite the fact that both males and females are capable of both.

Just like we raise our boys to be strong, brave and reach for opportunities; we should equally raise our women that way.

Four years ago, I was empowered by Lean In For Graduates, written by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook. In this book, Sheryl advised women to lean in to voice opinions on issues that matter, like negotiating salary and owning who you are.

Sheryl mentioned that in order for us to move forward, we must work together to create an equitable world.

This means that men must be willing to contribute toward our fight to empower our women both in and outside of the workforce.

At age seventeen, and after reading this book, there was a turning point in my life.

I subconsciously decided to never tolerate gender disparity in any area of my life, whether that be academically, professionally or in personal relationships.

I can proudly say Lean In has helped shape the woman I am today and the woman I will become in future years.

Women serve a greater role in this world today than we ever have.

We aren’t simply housewives or sensitive and sexual beings who reproduce.

We are strong, charismatic and hard-working women who follow our passions and undertake responsibilities on a daily basis.

Moreover, we are students, college graduates, protesters, leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, artists, professors, engineers, pioneers, architects, politicians, talk-show hosts, comedians, writers, athletes, mothers, daughters, sisters.

We are women.

When raising our girls, we must make it clear to them that they can accomplish anything and everything they set their mind to.

We need to help raise all girls and women on their feet and allow them to believe in themselves, especially when they make inevitable mistakes.

Perfection should not be what we strive to teach our daughters. We should strive to teach them that imperfection is normal, failing is normal, but getting back up and trying again is normal.

Bravery is what all of our women should strive for because at the end of the day, it takes a real brave person to change the world.

If we are raising our girls to not believe in themselves, we are setting up our future females to unknow their own success.

Our fight is ongoing because we need to make certain that our future generations are able to attain what those before us have worked tirelessly to create.

On a very positive note, we have made major improvements as a nation.

There is more diversity in the workforce.

This means more people in the workforce with disabilities, from all ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, gender and LGBT identities.

I am proud to say that as a 20-year-old Latina with an invisible learning disability, I feel very fortunate that I get to work with individuals two to three times my age.

And still, I am paid equal to my male counterparts.

Bearing in mind, the gender disparities that do still exist in the workforce, this is a major achievement to recognize and commemorate.

The Sustainable Development Goals has set their fifth out of their seventeen goals to achieve gender equality and empower all girls and women by 2030.

I stand beside our women today in hopes to empower and create gender balance worldwide.

Together we build a more sustainable and equitable world.

Karlene Sanchez is a junior studying public relations.

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