I come from a background where “feminism” is a dirty word.

In the context of my upbringing, the assertion that women still face any amount of inequality in the United States is laughable, a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body is disdained, and the belief that God does not want women teaching in churches is widely affirmed.

This year, on International Women’s Day, I am thankful to be removed from that pervasive mentality, and I am reminded of the many reasons why feminism is a necessary and beautiful thing.

International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1911, and it served as a day for women around the world to rally together, fighting for their right to work, vote and hold public office, and for gender-based discrimination of all kinds to end.

Over a century later, it is inspiring to see how much progress has been made.

For me, a woman in her 20s, it is humbling to think about the women who came before me — how much they sacrificed and how much courage and strength they had to display in order for me to be able to reap the benefits of that progress.

In so many ways, I am living in the future that was imagined by those women who attended the first IWD rallies in 1911.

It is important that each of us take time to reflect on how far the gender-equality movement has come around the world. At the same time, it is equally important that we also use this day to examine the progress that still desperately needs to be made.

Today, women remain the demographic with the highest risk of experiencing sexual violence. One in five women will be victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number is astounding, and the risk is even higher for women of color and LGBTQ women.

Across the world, women face unique risks in communities living in poverty. For example, many impoverished countries lack the resources to be able to provide adequate maternal health care. In Sierra Leone, a woman’s risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth is one in 20, according to the nonprofit organization Partners in Health.

In a place where something as essential as health care is already limited, it is important to note how these challenges impact certain demographics differently than others.

On International Women’s Day, it is paramount that we keep these obstacles faced by women around the globe in mind when we think about what progress still needs to be made.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Break the Bias.” Admitting one’s implicit biases can be a really painful thing to do. It feels shameful; it feels embarrassing.

How in tune with yourself would you have to be in order to be willing to admit to having biased beliefs about one group of people or another?

The truth is that so much of the progress that still needs to be made is dependent on every individual being willing to do the difficult work of examining and deconstructing their own internal mindset.

Do you cringe when you hear someone call themselves a feminist? Do you question how much of an accomplished woman’s success can be attributed to her own skills versus being able to use her looks to get ahead?

Do you find that it comes easier for you to work for a male than for a female boss? Do you see a woman who is outgoing and takes charge as more abrasive than you would her male counterpart?

Answering “yes” to any of these questions does not make you a bad person. In fact, acknowledging our internal biases is the first step toward the progress we are striving for.

If we truly want to “Break the Bias,” then it must start at an individual level. Each one of us can take actions that will contribute to larger progress.

In honor of International Women’s Day this year, take some time to reflect and ask yourself what steps you can take to break the bias.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series for International Women’s Day (March 8). The other articles published to date are:

Imagination is Our Medicine | Aurelia Pratt

Why We Must Become Aware of Internalized Sexism | Sara G. Tariq

Why Do Human Views of Women Differ from the Divine? | Sahar Alsahlani

Adding Women’s Voices Today to a Timeless Story | Rachel Ain

Say Her Name – Remembering Women Outside the History Books | Chris Smith

Why I Didn’t Celebrate International Women’s Day Growing Up | Lina Toth

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