‘A Day Without A Woman’ Draws Thousands To Bay Area Rallies While Others Skip Work In Solidarity

By Patrick May and Martha Ross
Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Coinciding with International Women’s Day and organized by the same people behind the earlier demonstrations, the “A Day Without A Woman” strike called for equal pay, reproductive freedom, immigrant rights and an end to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Mercury News

Across the Bay Area Wednesday, women joined a national movement aimed to highlight the magnitude of women’s contributions by marching, rallying, wearing red and even staying home from work to show their solidarity with a “Day Without a Woman” strike.

At Palo Alto High School, 45 staff members and 31 teachers were out — a normal day would have seen 10 or so — while shops like Donut Savant in Oakland closed their doors for the day, citing the national strike.

Silicon Valley tech companies voiced their support for the strike in various ways. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey changed his profile picture to red and the company showcased some of the women engineers in a video, while Facebook was encouraging women to share live videos of their stories, interview a female entrepreneur, or tell their friends about a women-owned business.

The one-day strike builds on the momentum from the women’s marches in Washington, D.C., and cities across the globe, which drew more than five million people, as well as the recent Day Without Immigrants, which saw several local businesses shut their doors in solidarity.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day and organized by the same people behind the earlier demonstrations, the “A Day Without A Woman” strike is calling for equal pay, reproductive freedom, immigrant rights and an end to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

It’s impact reverberated in businesses throughout the Bay Area.

Uber and Lyft told employees that they were welcome to take the day off to participate, and many in the companies’ San Francisco offices took their employers up on the offer. “It is quiet here today,” Adrian Durbin, Lyft’s director of corporate and policy communications, wrote in an email.

Lyft General Counsel Kristin Svercheck, who is out on maternity leave, also sent employees a note detailing what International Women’s Day and this year’s #BeBoldForChange theme mean to her. She pointed out a few lessons she wanted employees to take away from Women’s Day, including: “See something unfair or outdated? Question it,” and “It’s about acceptance. Lean in or lean out? It’s a personal choice.”

Uber sent a memo to employees last week asking them to inform their manager if they planned to take the day off, according to an Uber spokeswoman, who said Uber employees get unlimited paid time off. The move comes as Uber is trying to recover from a series of scandals — many tinged with accusations of sexual harassment and sexism — that started with a blog post a former engineer published accusing the company of turning a blind eye when her manager sexually harassed her.

Mountain View-based Google said it was supporting International Women’s Day across multiple platforms including YouTube and Search.

“For IWD, we are looking to close the gender gap in technology globally through new campaigns focused on education and access (e.g. trainings/workshops), awareness (e.g. research and transparency) and leadership (e.g. success stories),” a company spokesman said in a statement.

Among Google’s efforts to close the tech gender gap are new virtual computer science career tours accessible through Google Expeditions and viewed via the Cardboard virtual reality headset; a “Google Doodle” of a girl journeying to meet historical female trailblazers; several “Women Techmakers” summits in March and April at Google offices; and a curated playlist for kids on YouTube, featuring pioneering women, the spokesman said.

As the noon march in San Francisco got underway, a sea of women in red jackets and hats greeted the speakers on stage. In the crowd, women who had taken time off work or school included Christina Wells whose local advertising agency gave all the employees the day to participate.

Also on hand was Novato resident Gina Stahl-Ricco, who teaches communications at USF and gave her students the day off class. She had brought her two children, eight-month-old Dashiell in a front carrier, and eight-year-old Georgia, whom she took out of school for the day.

“I got backlash from friends that I cancelled classes and took Georgia out of school when her school might be losing money, but I felt it would teach her a lot to come and see this is what democracy is and why we vote,” said Stahl-Ricco. She said she wanted Georgia to experience what she believes is an historical movement first hand. “I told her, ‘you’re going to read about this in history books, and you’re going to be able to say, ‘I was there.'”

Shannon Coulter, the Bay Area based media strategist who co-launched the the #grabyourwallet boycott of retailers that sell products from Ivanka Trump or Donald Trump product lines, told the crowd of between 1,000 and 2,000 people: “I have important news to share with you. After November 8, many of you felt powerless, but I’m here to remind you that you are powerful.”

Coulter said that since the boycott was launched, becoming a social media phenomenon that apparently prompted Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and other retailers to stop selling Ivanka Trump clothes and jewelry, 1,400 companies have also stopped advertising on Breitbart News and 23 large and publicly traded companies have “stopped doing business with the most divisive political figure and family we’ve ever seen.”

Other speakers included, SF Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, several SF supervisors and Christine Pelosi, the chair of the Women’s Caucus of the California Democratic Party and daughter of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. When she announced that her mother and a handful of other US representatives walked out of the Capitol and held an event honoring International Women’s Day the crowd roared with cheers and applause.

“My mother and daughter Bella and I marched in Washington for our future,” said Christine Pelosi. “Now we would have been marching for the first female president of the United States, and we will sometime soon. Women are still marching and now we need women to run for office.”

The timing for the national strike is good: it gained momentum during the planning stages in response to President Trump’s policies and comments on women, especially immigrants and Muslims. The US campaign also piggybacks on International Women’s Day events, which traditionally have been observed more widely in other countries. And it comes just weeks after the most recent “Day Without Immigrants” campaign, which calls attention the key role immigrants play in America’s culture and workplace.

“This is an opportunity for women, like the low-wage workers that I work with, to join together with women everywhere to say ‘women power this economy,”‘ said Ai Jen Poo with the National Domestic Workers Alliance which which advocates for housekeepers, elder care and child care workers. She says women constitute a vital labor pool that’s too often grossly underpaid and undervalued and she called on them “to think together about how we might shape the future with that power.”

“A Day Without A Woman” gained momentum in reaction to President Trump’s policies and comments on women — especially immigrants and Muslims. But planning for the strike predates the Trump administration. Inspiration came from International Women’s Day events outside the United States, where the day is more widely observed.

The strike was organized to allow participation without too much effort. Planners said women could (1) Take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor, (2) Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses), and (3) Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman.

While organizers say the campaign for equal pay, reproductive and immigrant rights was intended in the same spirit of “love and liberation” that inspired women’s marches worldwide in January, some people complained that “A Day Without a Woman” might put some women in a bind if they’re unable to forego a day’s wages for the cause or find childcare if they want to march.

Actions around the country included a “Women Workers Rising” rally outside the Labor Department in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street, a hedge-fund management company put up a statue of a defiant little girl in front of the famous Charging Bull to challenge the ‘traditionally male environment’ of the industry. The “Fearless Girl’ bronze statue, featuring the child with her hands on her hips and her head held high as she faced the bull, was placed there by $2.5-trillion asset manager State Street Global as a symbol of the firm’s hope for women to become recognized leaders in the field.

The strike did receive some pushback from concerned parents. Family members in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland were especially upset after the district announced school closures at the last minute on Tuesday night.

“This is absolutely infuriating and uncalled for. Who gets punished here? The students. Especially those students who rely on the schools for food during the day. And never mind the fact that you’ve inconvenienced parents who now have to scramble for daycare at the last possible minute,” one person said on the district’s Facebook’s page.

But for many who planned to take part in the strike, the inconvenience was worth getting out the bigger message that women are often judged by a different standard then men.

“Way to go Teachers!” said a parent on the Facebook page of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina, which announced the closure March 2. “The whole point is to make people realize what an inconvenience it is when Women don’t show up. You are doing a brave and great thing. Thank you. (From a parent who is facing said inconvenience!)”

Another parent agreed, writing: “I’m a working mom, hourly employee, and I support this decision. I’m proud of our ACPS teachers for their solidarity and taking a very visible stand in these troubling times.”

The role of women in American society is significant. According to the U.S. Census, women make up more than 47 percent of the workforce and are dominant in such professions as registered nurses, dental assistants, cashiers, accountants and pharmacists.

They constitute at least a third of physicians and surgeons, as well as lawyers and judges. Women also represent 55 percent of all college students.

Despite their numbers in the workplace, women continue to be paid less than men, earning 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. The median income for women was $40,742 in 2015, compared with $51,212 for men, according to census data.

On Wednesday, the online real-estate company Trulia released a study showing that women are making impressive strides for equality in some but not all markets around the country. Despite closing the wage gap of 7.1 percent from 2008-2015, 41 of the top 100 markets actually saw an increase in that gap, including San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. The study also found that still lag in homeownership rates, trailing men by 4.2 percentage points.

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