Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which was observed in many countries around the world. When I went to the store to buy snacks with the kids after school, the owner of the store gave each of the women a white rose to celebrate. My 10-year-old, Norah, told me that she had learned about International Women’s Day in school, and that it started when there was a big fire in New York City and a lot of women working in the building died.

I immediately realized that Norah was talking about the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, but I had no idea that there was a connection between that tragedy and International Women’s Day.  Although International Women’s Day was first celebrated before the fire on March 19, 1911, the tragedy that occurred on March 25th – less than a week later – brought increased attention to working conditions and became the focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events.

It has been quite a few years since I faced discrimination because of my gender – if any of you have a problem with learning about codes from a woman, you’ve kept it quiet (good idea).  But it has not always been that way.  In 2011 I spoke about my early experiences in the industry at the New England Chapter of DHI “historical review” meeting (you can read about it here).  Although I have always worked for great companies where I was appreciated and treated fairly, there were some challenges along the way.

These days, I rarely think about being a woman in an industry that still has waaaaay more men than women.  While there are more women in our industry now than there were in the 1980’s, we are still very much in the minority.  I have met such amazing women working for distributors, manufacturers, end users, architects, security integrators, and some female AHJs, and I’m proud to be a member of this tribe.  I’m even encouraging my brilliant teenage daughter to consider following in my footsteps.

With that said, there are still millions of women who face inequality in the workplace on a daily basis.  And while working conditions and life safety have been improved immeasurably since the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, there are still men and women working in unsafe conditions around the world.  In honor of International Women’s Day, please take a moment to remember this tragedy and pledge to do your part to uphold the code requirements that keep us safe.

If you’re not familiar with the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, here’s a short video from America – The Story of US on the History Channel:

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