“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions — all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.”

#ChooseToChallenge is the 2021 campaign theme for International Women’s Day, which was celebrated Monday, March 8. This day, which has been celebrating women since 1911, is a global day recognizing the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Women all over the world and throughout history have challenged the status quo, from Joan of Arc to Rosa Parks, from Cleopatra to Frida Kahlo, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, from Catherine the Great to Jane Goodall, from Harriet Tubman to Kristi Yamaguchi. Different cultures, races, interests and careers, they all faced challenges that made them remarkable because they are women.

We can’t ask them what their thoughts are on #ChooseToChallenge, but we can ask some of the local women in Jennings County their thoughts, because you don’t have to search around the world in order to find women to celebrate. You don’t even need to look farther than your own neighborhood.

“I think it is important to choose to challenge our beliefs and assumptions in most areas,” said Teresa Brown, superintendent of Jennings County School Corporation. “It is important to not settle or do things just because they have always been done a certain way. It has always been my goal to let my actions and work ethic tell my story. I am proud to be a superintendent, who happens to be a woman. I do think, and research supports, that women bring a unique skill set to our leadership jobs that makes us great collaborators while focusing on building relationships. In my job I am required to know as much about finance and operations as I do about curriculum and instruction. I have embraced all of these jobs. I do choose to challenge anyone who tries to perpetuate bias and inequality.”

Where would Jennings County be without all the women who help run it? Five out of nine school principals, including St. Mary’s, have strong women at the helm of our education system. Many of the beloved and locally-owned businesses in Jennings are owned and/or operated by women. The county Area Planning, Auditor, Circuit Court, Clerk, Health Department, Purdue Extension, Recorder and Treasurer are all led by women. If there’s not one then there are multiple women behind the scenes who are essential to each and every organization and home in this county. Not just the people in power, but our front desk receptionists, medical staff, industry workers, waitresses, caregivers, teachers, coaches, gas station attendants, cashiers and many, many more. Women are everywhere, making a difference. If only it were possible to list them all by name.

Anna Walker from the Jennings County Young Professionals said, “Though some might think that only the powerful can have influence, I would say that influence and the ability to make a difference is held by every human in this world. Though the degree and breadth might be different for every person, difference-makers are people who see a need and act, they use their natural gifts and graces to speak truth and teach by example. Women have, for many years, made huge impacts in the world through education, community service, and within the home. Now, we have seen women’s roles expand into all facets of work and life.

“It is evident to me that women have been playing important roles in communities and families for a long time,” Walker continued. “Growing up in a family and around mentors that encouraged me to pursue leadership roles and grow in my gifts and skills alongside my male peers gave me a framework of equity, inclusion, and self-confidence. It certainly takes the voices of both men and women to create positive change. It takes role models and advocates for women to see the possibilities.”

Let us celebrate women’s equal importance in making the world a stronger, better and more beautiful place.