March 8 (UPI) -- For the 108th time, International Women's Day is being celebrated Friday with activists advocating for social and financial equality and the end of violence.
The day's theme for 2019 is "Balance for Better" and will celebrate women's achievements.
This year's commemoration follows a record 117 women elected to U.S. Congress last fall and several making plans to run for president in 2020.
"It's time to reflect on the progress for women and call for ways to address the unfinished business in working toward equality," said Rachel Vogelstein, a board member at the National Women's History Museum.
Women are encouraged to post photos online with their hands out to signify balance, with the hashtag #BalanceforBetter. Official events are posted on the International Women's Day website. The United States was set to hold events in 35 cities.
U.S. President Donald Trump marked the occasion by praising women for their role in "shaping and strengthening our communities, families, governments and businesses."
"We have made tremendous progress in the fight for equality and justice for all," he wrote in a statement Friday. "My administration has championed initiatives to promote women's global economic empowerment through business, technology, and increased access to capital.
"Thanks to our economic policies, women's unemployment in the United States has reached the lowest level in 65 years and more than 2 million more women are working today than in November 2016," he added.
"When women are economically empowered they are able to invest more in their families and communities, producing a multiplier effect that spurs economic growth and contributes to global stability."
For many countries, wars and ethnic violence are recognized as the main causes of sexual and gender-based violence. The United Nations, Red Cross and Red Crescent are working together to bring attention to rape as a weapon of war.
"Let me be clear. Sexual and gender-based violence in conflict is not only a horrendous and life-changing crime, most often perpetrated against women and girls," said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "It is also used as a tactic of war, to terrorize families, dehumanize communities and destabilize societies, so that they struggle to recover for years or even decades after the guns fall silent."
Worldwide, labor experts said working conditions for women have barely improved over the last 30 years, especially in executive positions. Women's pay is often 20 percent lower, globally, than a man's for similar work.
"This is despite that fact that they are likely to be better educated than their male counterparts," a United Nations report said Thursday. "Education is not the main reason for lower employment rates and lower pay of women, but rather that women do not receive the same dividends for education as men."
The report also says women face a "motherhood wage penalty."
International Women's Day was first observed in 1911 in Britain, Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The United Nations officially made March 8 the repeating date in 1975.
This year, companies including Budweiser, Pepsi, PayPal and Barbie are marking the occasion with ads to empower women and shed stereotypes that marked their brand in the past.
For example, Barbie made doll versions of real-life women who can be positive role models for girls. The figures were released specifically for Friday's events.
"The Barbie brand believes girls should never know a world, job, or dream women haven't conquered," said Barbie's general manager and senior vice president Lisa McKnight in an online statement.
Lyft is giving ride discounts to or from locations that honor women, such as the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Harriet Tubman Memorial in New York City.
Women of the U.S. Congress