So I woke up this morning, International Women’s Day, 8th March 2018, with mixed emotion: “I really should write a blog” (insert conforming to a perceived expectation and sense of responsibility), “I really should be proud and acknowledge all we are achieving” (insert celebrating the marketed 'progress'), “But really does it mean anything?” (insert questioning and contemplating the real progress we have made), “FxxK there is still so much to do!” (insert frustration at the one step forward and quite a few back). And....Sigh.
This International Women’s Day I really do feel like a hamster running around a wheel, doing the same rotation again and again. Permit me to list the thoughts running through my head:
- I am so incredibly grateful to be part of a generation of women that are continuing to speak up, to raise our voices and to get the stuff that truly matters on the agenda.
- I am surrounded by awesome female business leaders and entrepreneurs that are changing the game and doing business on their terms, that are every day digging deep, pushing through, asking for help, driving momentum for themselves and others.
- I am inspired by the increasing number of loud female voices in the media that are challenging the pay gap, that are a voice for working parents, that are fighting every day for equality around the world.
- I am grateful for the number of awesome female role models in my every day life – personally and professionally, people I know and don’t – that I can share with my own children to inspire them to be more every single day…and to not accept the crap that continues to exist.
- I feel an incredible amount of excitement at what the younger generation, the future leaders, are bringing to society and the world - their willingness to stand up, to be counted, to challenge the norm, to change the rules.
- I feel a incredible warmth and hope for the amazing work of those women that are driven by business for purpose, that are using their influence to create long-lasting legacy around the world.
- I am honoured to sit on the Leadership Circle for Action Aid, a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all and particularly support the current campaign to raise the voices of #Womanitarians around the world.
- I am grateful to be partnering with incredible leaders, female and male, who put their money where their mouth is, who walk the talk and invest 100% and more in their personal commitment, new policies, procedures, platforms and programs to increase the female leadership pipeline in their organisations.
- I respect and equally support my circle of awesome men that every day, themselves, challenge the norm and their own unconscious bias, that have my back and encourage me to do more.
Within the business arena (and don't forget that IWD was originally named International Working Women's Day), there is still vast inequality. The glass ceiling is still very much there, and it seems to be made of shatterproof material. Women continue to earn less than their male counterparts ($253.70 less per week or 15.3%), the levels of women in c-suite and above are still not equal (in January 2018, 26.2% of directors in the ASX 200 are women and over one-quarter (29.1%) of Workplace Gender Equality Agency reporting organisations have no key management personnel who are women). It would appear that the doors to job opportunities continue to be held tightly shut, the group think of the boy’s club still exists and the majority of industry and decision making are continuing to be made by the white 50-year old males.
Within the home environment, in terms of simply living our lives, we as women are very much made to feel that we need to be superheroes - to be truly successful, we must run a home, raise beautiful and intelligent children, maintain a healthy relationship and also have an excellent and fulfilling career and of course look and feel awesome at the same time. And yet, what I see everyday, is this ‘perceived norm’ is resulting in too many women running themselves ragged – they are certainly not attaching the proverbial oxygen mask to themselves first.
Within social media and social networking channels the conversations, the sharing of imagery (at least what I am seeing in my own world of big and small people) is perpetuating the obsession with body image and a need to be liked and accepted by the masses. According to a report commissioned by Dove in 2016, over half the girls around the world do not have good body esteem and 89% of Australian women are choosing to cancel plans, job interviews or other important engagements simply because of how they look. And despite higher awareness of the pressures imposed by media, social media and advertising, one out of every two Australian women report they feel worse about themselves after looking at images of attractive women in magazines. Dr. Susan Paxton, who was involved in the research adds, “Women are under many pressures to conform to beauty ideals, and the report shows that social media is presenting a new presenting a new challenge and adding pressure to look a certain way. The findings are certainly a call for action”.
Within society we don’t seen to be making significant headway with the high levels of domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying and inappropriate behaviours that are intended to make women feel inferior, frightened and silenced. And whilst voices have become stronger as a result of various campaigns in the last 12 months, the reality is that for too long these same voices had been silenced. The evidence is there, loud and clear to support the continuing lack of equality:
- The #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc campaigns both created noise across social media providing a platform for millions of voices to breakdown the high walls guarding perpetrators of sexual crimes - but cases are still ongoing
- The #QuoteHer campaign launched by Julie Silver, M.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, was started in order to increase the amount of women being quoted in healthcare journalism. “I noticed there was a pattern of underrepresentation of female physicians and healthcare leaders quoted in articles in major media,” she told CJR reporter John Hanc.
- On 21st January 2017, thousands of women marched in various parts of India to demand safe access and freedom to public spaces. This protest march under the #IWillGoOut campaign was carried out after the instance of mass molestation in Bengaluru on New Year’s Eve.
- In Australia, 49 women were killed due to domestic violence in 2017 (Destroy the Joint); the White Ribbon website cites 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them, 1 in 5 women over 18 have been stalked during their lifetime and 1 in 5 women experience harassment in the workplace amongst so many other statistics.
- Main stream TV perpetuates the challenge. Check out last night’s “Married At First Sight” episode which illustrated the subtle strength of male group think to full effect as the group moved quickly in to defensive mode for each other following an inappropriate conversation about wife swapping. This group think was further emphasised as collectively they attempted to shut down the sole male voice that chose to stand up and speak up.
And when it comes to IWD2018 events, I have read many social media posts and listened to many conversations questioning the real purpose of these events – Where are all the men? Why are the events at the crack of dawn adding increasing pressure on those working parents? Why is it up to the women to organise? Do these events actually mean anything? Are they really driving any change or are they simply a ‘tick in the box’ statement?
So, if you have got this far in this blog I’m hoping you at least have an understanding of why I woke up this morning with mixed feelings about IWD2018.
Now, I know I am no wonder woman, traversing the world in my invisible jet of super power. But what I am is this. I am a woman, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter and a friend with dreams of a better and improved future. I am passionate about diversity and believe we are all responsible for change today and tomorrow. I believe we can change ourselves and the next generation to come. I know together we can create a more balanced world for tomorrow.
For me IWD isn’t about one day.
It’s about making every day matter – how we behave, how we speak, how we support the right and how we challenge the wrong. Everything all adds up. Everything creates a ripple and when those ripples get strong then we have the wave.
To all those incredible women and men in my world who are committed to this every day - I thank you and I am honoured to be on this journey with you. You are all an important part of my world and I know that together, we can create change.