“We can work together for a better world with men and women of goodwill, those who radiate the intrinsic goodness of humankind.” – Wangari Maathai
This Friday is International Women’s Day. Even though it has been celebrated in some form or another since 1909 (and that’s an achievement in itself) – who could have imagined the power that the female voice holds in 2013? A female Chancellor in Germany deciding the fate of Greece’s (and greater Europe’s) economy. Aung San Syu Kyi leading the fight for freedom and democracy without raising a fist. Hillary Rodham Clinton commanding respect across the globe for her incredible intellect and political nous. And Australia finally stepping up with our first female Prime Minister – even if the focus seems to never move away from her fashion sense, rather than her policies.
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. 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.
Some people might say these are first world problems, and that we shouldn’t complain – that being able to simply have the opportunity to have it all makes us incredibly fortunate in the first place. And yes, this is true in many ways. It’s the reason why if we have success and good luck we need to ensure we give back. But by the same token, it is exhausting trying to be a woman of worth. Sometimes I know that it feels almost impossible trying to ‘have it all’. And I must emphasise that certainly there is no reason why children or a marriage should comprise part of one’s definition of success or happiness.
I think we need to take a long hard look at ourselves and the pressure we apply on a daily basis. Why do we expect so much from ourselves – and from each other? We almost set ourselves up to fail by putting unrealistic expectations on what we can do with our lives.
For me – and this is something I am only just coming to terms with – being a woman of value and worth doesn’t mean being WonderWoman. You don’t need to fly around in your Invisible Jet, saving the corporate planet on a regular schedule and then making it home in time to have dinner on the table. That’s not what life should be about. As long as you are standing for what you believe in, surrounding yourself with good people – both men and women – and making a difference because you act with authenticity and honesty, you are a true leader.
And that is what we should be celebrating on Friday. Not some artificial vision of coiffed chicness, who doesn’t need help from anyone – male or female – poised to take over the world by herself.
Let’s make sure that this is the message being passed on to the future Julias and Hillarys. Because they are the ones who need to know what March 8 is all about.