#EmbraceEquity Continues When We #EmbraceEachOther

Two women embrace at a protest.

by Ellen Buchman, The Opportunity Agenda

Organizers are marking the annual celebration of International Women’s Day – held on March 8 every year – by calling on supporters to uplift the 2023 theme: #EmbraceEquity. The Opportunity Agenda – the organization I lead – shares the view that we must embrace equity as a means to getting to the society that we are striving to be. It’s a story of a society in which everyone can thrive, and it’s definitely a narrative to focus on as a long-term goal. 

Why equity? Equity is a matter of understanding that all people experience their lives and opportunities differently due to the circumstances they face. And that means that there is an inordinate imbalance that creates the need for people to receive different levels of access to opportunity and resources. That’s why equity matters. 

We need to #EmbraceEquity now more than ever.  

From the repeal of Roe v. Wade to the devastation of the global pandemic, inequities in our health care system, our workplaces, our laws, among many other areas, have been laid bare. We’ve witnessed how unequal access, disparate treatment, and unfair outcomes impact people’s everyday lives.  

We also know that history’s great pivot points have shown us that, in moments where inequity could no longer be tolerated, masses mobilized and laws passed. From the push for a woman’s right to vote ramping up in the early 1900s to the civil rights sit-ins of the 1960s, we saw the world eventually embrace change. And today’s escalating demands for the state to protect and respect Black and brown lives further proves that society believes in the power of equity to truly achieve justice.  

But for some people – particularly women, non-binary, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC individuals – finding equity isn’t easy. Societal expectations, cultural pressures, systemic racism, and sexism discourage or often completely bar us from accessing the same opportunities that others receive. Furthermore, the struggle to achieve parity is clouded by the stubborn, false narrative that “they” can just go out and “get it” if they really wanted it.  

Adding insult to injury, many legislators and courts are trying to keep it this way. As I write this, I think about the anti-bodily autonomy legislative and judicial agenda we face today. I think about the more than 300 pieces of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation moving their way through state legislatures across the country. All this further proving that there are people and groups determined to keep some people down just because of who they are, and they are thereby determined to retain systemic power, which is inequitable. 

That’s why we must #EmbraceEquity not only as this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, but as the way forward through these especially challenging times.  

At The Opportunity Agenda, we believe that starts with how we talk about it. Too often, we witness a focus on striving toward fairness and equality. But equity – as opposed to equality – suggests that everyone starts their journey toward opportunity from what is sometimes a dramatically different starting point or set of life circumstances. Our narratives must reflect that all of us have a range of different experiences during our lifetimes; and we must be able to thrive nonetheless. 

As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, I propose bolstering this year’s theme with an additional hashtag to be used year-round, and ideally every day: #EmbraceEachOther. Imagine it. What if everyone intentionally sought to understand each other’s circumstances and embrace each other? That would make embracing equity more natural and much more likely to be successful. We’d be starting from a shared understanding of each other’s differences and, therefore, a mutual curiosity about what’s needed to succeed. We could even get to a place of celebrating one another’s differences, too. Imagine how different our work, our personal lives, our society would be if we each modeled a conscious practice and vision statement in our own personal narrative and approach.  

Why is this important? Because to truly #EmbraceEachOther would be a game changer!  

It starts with simple curiosity: asking each other about the challenges we face and offering an ear – or support – over judgment. It would end the dynamics around competition, the “us and them” mentality. It would end “worthiness” for resources. It would move our meritocratic and competitive mindset to one that focuses on what it takes for everyone to thrive. Not only some of us, ALL of us. It would transform our culture to one of caring and not of othering.  

For now, the hard work toward justice and the hashtag #EmbraceEquity will have to do on this International Women’s Day. I am committed to using it and to continually strive to #EmbraceEachOther on this day and beyond.  

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