International Women’s Day
Did you know that the first International Women’s Day took place in 1911? 108 years later we’re still celebrating it, and International Women’s Day is still as relevant as it was then. But in the week since the day, I’ve heard a lot of people (largely men) say they can’t see the relevance of celebrating the day and asking why we’re making such as fuss?
This years’ theme, ‘Better the Balance, Better the World’ not only celebrates of how far women have come to be able to live in a balanced world. But it also sums up why we’re still making a fuss - there is still so much imbalance.
Obviously, it’s still relevant as a celebration of the progress NZ has made. New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote. We’ve come a long way since then. The first MP was elected in 1933, and since then the balance of male to female MPs has risen from a handful to over a third of the Parliamentary seats. Women are in the cabinet, we’ve had 3 women Prime Ministers and our current one is only the 2nd PM in the world to give birth while in office.
Elsewhere, women are now well established in the workforce, and increasingly doing traditionally ‘male’ roles, not to mention an active move to increase the number of women into STEM roles, utilising their great academic and scientific abilities. Discussions on the gender pay gap continue, the gap is slowly decreasing and the transparency about pay rates is increasing. So there’s much to celebrate.
The problem is that there are still many issues to face, and since they still largely only happen to women, it’s very easy for men to stay blissfully unaware of them because they don’t happen to men. This only serves to support my argument that it’s something we need to continue to highlight.
For instance, women still face uniquely gendered problems in the workforce. Women are still having to fight harder to be promoted, to be better than their male counterparts just to be on the same short list. At the interview stage women are often asked how they will care for their children, a question that men rarely, if ever, encounter. Flexible working practices make life easier for everyone, but in large corporates mothers must often battle with the attitude that they are not pulling their weight, although the issue of an ineffective productivity by a man is rarely challenged. And while these issues may not happen so much to men, they very much affect women’s working lives. Hence why we need to keep highlighting that they exist!
It’s understandable that we’re ‘making a fuss.’ Women are fed up being told things are changing, the rate is too slow. Women today are being told that the gender pay gap will take over 200 years to close. And we’ve been told this for decades and decades now. Of course, we’re frustrated at the glacial pace of change.
So, what I’m trying to say, yes let’s celebrate the achievements. But let’s also continue to make a fuss all the year round, otherwise we’ll never make the world a more balanced place.