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March Organizers Call for Female Strike on International Women's Day


Women march in International Women's Day Protest in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2017. (Photo: E. Sarai / VOA)

Women march in International Women's Day Protest in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2017. (Photo: E. Sarai / VOA)

The group that organized January’s Women’s March in Washington have called for women to take the day off Wednesday to show their economic value.

The event, dubbed by organizers as “A Day Without Women,” is meant to coincide with International Women’s Day, and to illustrate the economic power women hold by asking them to stay home from work and avoid spending money.

The strike call marks the first major action taken by the group since January 21, when millions of people took to the streets in cities across the United States to protest the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated.

Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to voice support for the U.N.-recognized International Women’s Day celebration. He did not address the planned strike.

Several public school districts in the U.S. will be forced to close classrooms Wednesday after teachers said they would skip school to participate in the strike.

In North Carolina, Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district officials said the number of teacher and staff absences "was significant” and there would not be "enough staff to safely run our school district."

Alexandria, Virginia school officials their decision to close schools wasn’t “based on a political stance,” but instead “based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms.”

Karin Agness, founder of the conservative Network of Enlightened Women, said she thinks the strike is more of a media strategy than about actually advancing women.

"Striking is not the way to advance women in the workplace or in society," Agness said. "If they are really concerned about women in the workplace, they could have come up with some more concrete actions that really would have made a difference."

Women prepare to march in International Women's Day Protest in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2017. (Photo: E. Sarai / VOA)

Women prepare to march in International Women's Day Protest in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2017. (Photo: E. Sarai / VOA)

Wednesday’s women’s strike is part of hundreds of events planned across America to coincide with International Women’s Day.

In Detroit, professional women are gathering for a Sip and Sushi event of "tea, sushi, networking and more.”

Africa Femmes Performantes Inc. will host its eighth annual Business Inspiring Women Conference in Washington, which it bills as an “open debate between governments, international organizations and businesses.”

In New York, a coalition of activist groups is planning a march that will travel past several important landmarks in the women’s rights movement.

Egyptian women chant anti military ruling council slogans during a demonstration in front of the Journalist's Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt to mark International Women's Day, March 8, 2012.

Egyptian women chant anti military ruling council slogans during a demonstration in front of the Journalist's Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt to mark International Women's Day, March 8, 2012.

International events Wednesday include an all-female kick boxing tournament in Toronto, Canada, a 10K fun run in Brisbane, Australia, that will see 10,000 women run through the city’s streets, and a literature festival in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, centered on gender equality.

The International Women’s Day website says the event has been observed since the early 1900s, and since then, it has become “a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity.”

There are 22 female world leaders currently in power, more than any other time in history.

Women participate in International Women's Day Protest in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2017. (Photo: E. Sarai / VOA)

Women participate in International Women's Day Protest in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2017. (Photo: E. Sarai / VOA)

Women currently make up about 44 percent of total employees at S&P 500 companies and hold 29 CEO positions at those companies, another record high, according to numbers compiled by Catalyst, a nonprofit group that promotes gender diversity. The 29 female CEOs represent just 5.8 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.

Advances need to be made in politics as well, said Rachel Thomas, national press secretary for Emily’s List, an influential pro-choice group.

Just 104 women, accounting for about 20 percent of the total, hold seats in the U.S. Congress in 2017: 21 women in the Senate, and 83 women in the House of Representatives.

“We make up over half the country, but right now we are less than 20 percent of Congress, that is not enough," Thomas said. "... when you don’t have a diverse governing body, you leave out entire swaths of the population through the policies that you enact."

Demonstrators hold a placard during a rally for gender equality and against violence towards women on International Women's Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 8, 2017.

Demonstrators hold a placard during a rally for gender equality and against violence towards women on International Women's Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 8, 2017.

Some data also shows women have made major gains in compensation, but their salaries still lag behind their male counterparts.

“The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. This is too long to wait,” the IWD website says. “So around the world, International Women's Day provides an important opportunity for ground breaking action that can truly drive greater change for women.”

Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show full-time female employees in 2015 made, on average, 81 percent of what their comparable male colleagues make. In 1979, women earned about 62 percent of what comparable male colleagues made.

The BLS website adds the comparisons are broad and show "many factors that can be significant in explaining earnings differences, such as job skills and responsibilities, work experience, and specialization."

Aru Pande contributed to this report.

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