So it is 2018, and on the eve of March 8, the eve of International Women’s Day, I have asked myself a forbidden question, is it, International Women’s Day, still relevant? I know what my heart believes.
So, we have the vote, tick; we can have a career and a family, tick; we can undertake any career that we desire, tick; we can make it to the highest political office in the land, tick. However, delve a little deeper, we are not represented equally in parliament, in board rooms, have equal pay, and yes I would argue we do not have equal standing in community. Bold statement I know but it is how I feel and this topic is loaded with emotion.
So what is the origin of International Women’s Day? The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911. It is held in recognition that collective action and shared responsibility is required if we are ever to see gender parity. According to UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, “Achieving gender parity equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world”. Another big, bold statement and one I believe.
In line with this thinking it is interesting to know that feminism was Merriam-Webster online dictionary’s most looked up word for 2017. The noun was looked up more than any other word, a 70 percent increase from the previous year, undoubtedly coinciding with a spike in news coverage related to women’s rights. “No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events, or stories of a given year ” Merriam-Webster said, “But when a single word is looked up in great volume, and also stands out as one associated with several different important stories, we can learn something about ourselves through the prism of vocabulary.”
Jessica Irvine, in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, reports on the release of the findings of the first ever survey of attitudes to work by Australian women aged 16 to 40. The national survey of more than 2100 women and 500 men asked respondents to nominate what matters “a lot” to their working lives.
- Women ranked “respect” as the number one thing they valued in the workplace, ahead of having an interesting or well-paying job.
- One in ten women experienced sexual harassment in their current jobs. Furthermore, the report identified prevalent forms of other gender-based discrimination “such as being belittled or singled out for their physical appearance”.
- Only 31 per cent of women thought they were treated equally at work, compared to 50 per cent of men who said the same.
- 53 per cent of young working women expect to see an improvement in gender equality in the workforce in the coming decade, while a third expect women’s experiences to remain about the same.
So what can I make out of these facts? There is as much need today in 2018 to herald International Women’s Day as there was in 1911. There is a need to continue the national conversation about the rights, the roles and aspirations of women.
As a CEO in a sector where the workforce is predominantly female I ask myself how I can make a difference. I can work to ensure the industrial tool is not eroded or undermined, I can ensure that there is access to training and opportunity and I can ensure there is no discrimination based on age, race, and gender. I always recognise that many women hold dual jobs, one in the workplace and one in the home and that one will always impact on the other, subject to operational limitations I can offer flexibility in recognition of the important role that family plays in our lives. I can mentor younger women offering my wisdom and experience and I can encourage and make space at the table for younger women wishing to progress their careers.
As I write this article, the anthem by the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin’, “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” is playing in my head, the chorus particularly powerful:
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves.
Standin’ on their own two feet.
And ringin’ on their own bells.
On International Women’s Day, “sisters” let’s keep ringing those bells; there will be a day when we will be heard. I will mostly definitely be wearing the colour of the movement on March 8, purple, and I hope to see many more “sisters” wearing it to!