Honoring Women's History Month

Posted by Office of Diversity and Inclusion on Friday, March 1, 2024 at 11:53 AM PST

Dear Campus Community,   

As we begin the month of March, we commemorate Women’s History Month, a time to honor the contributions and achievements of women throughout history and in the present day. A range of themes have emerged for this year’s observance, from the United Nations’ “Invest in women: Accelerate progress;” to the National Women’s History Alliance's – “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” March 8th is International Women’s Day, and this year’s campaign focus – “Inspire Inclusion” – invites collective action to empower women across the globe. These themes serve as poignant reminders of persistent challenges to women’s full actualization, as well as the pivotal role women of all backgrounds have played in shaping a more just and inclusive world. From trailblazers who shattered glass ceilings to grassroots activists who fought for the rights of marginalized communities, women have led movements, sparked change, and championed progress. As we celebrate their remarkable legacies, let us also recommit ourselves to amplifying their voices, advancing their causes, and building a future where every woman can thrive.  

In line with our LIFT SU principles, and in support of our commitment to pursuing inclusive excellence, we recognize that fostering inclusion means amplifying voices from a variety of perspectives. We have invited two of our colleagues to share their reflections on what Women’s History Month means to them. We offer deep gratitude to Aisha Ali, Senior Academic Advisor, College of Science and Engineering, and Beatrice Lawrence, Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies, for sharing their stories and perspectives, and trust that you will receive their words with openness. 

Aisha Ali 
Senior Academic Advisor, College of Science and Engineering

I don’t feel a deep connection to women’s history month.  As someone who self-identifies as a cisgender woman, this month is not particularly significant to me. I don’t see myself represented through the extraordinary women who are put forward during this month to be celebrated. What could I possibly have in common with Oprah Winfrey, Malala Yousafzai, or Dorles Huerta? But talk to me about the community of women who stand with these ladies and I feel a hum of connection. The individual names of these women will not make the history books and the ordinariness of their roles is something that is downplayed, rather than celebrated.  

After all, the work women do isn’t particularly sexy if you think about it. Women are asked to present more of themselves in the family, work, culture, and societal realms and are expected to navigate all these areas with aplomb and skill. It’s exhausting to feel like a 24/7 call center, to always show up when a partner, child, colleague, family member, or friend needs something and to feel less than when you can’t give the matter your full attention. This is a feeling that I experience persistently and, when I ask my female peers, I get similar stories.  

In this context, I think of my mother who immigrated to America with my father from Pakistan (to rural South Carolina, specifically) and had to navigate work, home, and her own life while ensuring my siblings and I were fed, clothed, and healthy. I think of my girlfriends, who I call when I’m in a period of transition and who give me their time, wisdom, and literal shelter when I am going through difficult moments. I think of my sisters, who love unconditionally though we try each other, who have always supported me. I think of the women I work with, who create space for me, share their knowledge, and encourage my ideas. It is the everyday ordinary supporting contributions of women, multiplied over time, that should be recognized and celebrated as part of our collective culture, rather than being taken for granted.  

Thank you to Dr. Sarah Cate, Ph.D. and Jessica Allison, M.A. for their support. 

Beatrice Lawrence, Ph.D. 
Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies 

I was born into a second-wave feminist household. Growing up, my sister and I participated in marches for the ERA and reproductive rights. We weren’t taught how to cook or clean lest someone expect us to do it.  We listened to heated meetings in the living room about grassroots movements and fighting patriarchy. We were never, ever told there was something we could not do or be because we were girls. The other people in our small Idaho town looked at us strangely.   

It was a beautiful way to grow up.  

We did not refer to our environment as “second wave.”  Feminist thought moves in currents that, like historical periodization, are rarely apprehended from within. When I went to college in 1991, I didn’t realize we were moving into third wave feminism. But I came home for break with a copy of bell hooks’ feminist theory from margin to center. Over the next few years, I read about intersectionality. I learned that gender norms harm everyone, and patriarchy is linked to all other hierarchies. At the age of 22, with hooks and Angela Davis and Judith Plaskow firmly in hand, I graduated from college thinking I knew how to fix the world’s problems, if only people would listen to me.   

Today, we are examining the construction of gender in ways that are more profound than could have been imagined. Technology has morphed the way feminist work can and should be done, embracing transnational perspectives. Feminist thinking flourishes and fights and bends and adapts and never stop moving. But the older problems remain. There is still no ERA. Reproductive rights are under attack in the US. Sexual violence, the wage gap, and unpaid labor are ubiquitous.  

The work of feminism requires looking forward and looking back. Problems that existed in the past still need to be addressed. Trailblazers from before our time showed courage and stamina we need to emulate. We stand on the shoulders of feminist giants. So, feminist warriors of today, I urge you: in addition to imagining a future of new and beautiful liberation, listen to your elders. 

Resources and Renewal to Inclusion  
To find a suite of educational opportunities and learn more about the origins of Women’s History Month, please visit the official Women’s History Month website

Women have been at the forefront of nearly every transformative time in history. As President Jimmy Carter noted in the first Presidential Proclamation honoring women in the United States – “Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.” Let us draw inspiration from women of our past and present, here and across the world, learn about their intersectional and intergenerational experiences, and with fervor, evolve and expand equity and inclusion for all women and girls.  

Celebrate the resilience and unwavering dedication of women who pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive society as we join them in this liberatory work for a stronger campus community and a better world. 


Eduardo M. Peñalver, President  

Natasha Martin, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion