This month at Jersey Cares we are celebrating Women’s History Month by inviting some of our friends to share their thoughts and experiences on the women who have inspired them. Today we feature a piece by Lucy Doyle, Programs Manager at Jersey Cares.
At 51% of the United States’ population and with nearly 30% of that population volunteering, women easily make up the majority of volunteers in the country. It felt only right, then, to give our female volunteers the spotlight today of all days, on International Women’s Day.
Why do women volunteer in such great numbers? Theories about the giving nature of women, the extracurriculars that come with motherhood, and the gender pay gap all come up in conversation. While we may not know for sure what it is that brings the ladies to the yard (to do some planting and bench building for schools and shelters all over New Jersey!), we can say for sure that the efforts of our girls and women across the state are very real, and very impressive. Consider for a moment that 60% of the working poor in the United States is made up of women, and the average woman will make $0.64 to her white male colleagues’ $1.00 (and the numbers only get worse for women of color)—these numbers paint a dismal picture for the state of women at work. It’s a true testament to our wills that we’re able to give so much of ourselves to improving the lives of those around us as unpaid workers, even when we are faced by some insurmountable odds. On a given day, women may be faced with sexism in myriad forms (from shaming and street harassment to being underrepresented in positions of power and being bombarded by impossible beauty standards), and yet, we don’t just survive but we thrive through the lives we reach and the mentorship we provide the next generation. What better motivator is there to create change, when you see the need for change each and every day.
Some of the role models in civic engagement are the unsung female (s)heroes of the abolition movement, the suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation movement, and the LGBT rights movement—that’s really a lot of moving!
Volunteerism and activism go hand in hand, and I am proud of the feminist foremothers that came before us—and hopefully the feminist daughters that come after. It’s no coincidence the First Lady of the United States has historically been a role filled by women who take on volunteerism and the public good.
Michelle Obama embraces volunteerism, making nutrition accessible for kids across the country, promoting girls’ education, and exemplifying grace under pressure. But it doesn’t take a seat in the White House to make real change every day, and the young girls and women who volunteer every day know it.
Around the office at Jersey Cares, it isn’t unusual for a female staffer to be seen unpacking and repacking the van full of heavy duty, industrial supplies for a project, then to be caught brushing the dirt off to command an audience of corporate volunteers. Breaking a sweat isn’t gendered, and we’re happy to get the work done. We wear multiple hats, and defying gender stereotypes that many of our own mothers had to face growing up is part of the everyday experience at Jersey Cares.
Women’s work is never done, and for the sake of the state, that adds up to a lot of volunteer hours. That’s a lot of wo-man power!