International Women's Day: What's it all about?

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. In 1911, the first year the day was celebrated internationally, women could not vote in most countries. Today, women serve as presidents of nations and corporations.

Why do we have a day to celebrate women?

When the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in 1977 declaring observance of a women’s day worldwide, it cited two reasons: a chance to honor women’s contributions to international peace and security, and recognition that peace, social progress, human rights, and fundamental freedoms come hand-in-hand with gender equality. Countries around the world had observed International Women's Day for decades, but the UN declaration was a big step in recognition.

In 2010, the UN established UN Women to focus on gender equity and female empowerment. In Executive Director Michelle Bachelet's remarks in honor of International Women's Day this year, the former president of Chile highlighted that women lag behind men in literacy, basic schooling, and governance.

"It is not just women who pay the price for this discrimination," she said. "We all suffer for failing to make the most of half the world’s talent and potential. We undermine the quality of our democracy, the strength of our economies, the health of our societies and the sustainability of peace. This year’s focus of International Women’s Day on women’s equal access to education, training, science and technology underscores the need to tap this potential."

2 of 5