Today is International Women's Day. Yay!
Ok that was not a true ecstatic yay. It was a lame yay - pretending to be ecstatic but not really. Definitely not the kind of excitement my sisters and I had on my wedding day in the picture below.
Because I won't pretend that I was absolutely plugged in and aware of all the facts as to what this day is about. I knew the basics though and I knew the theme for this year is Pledge For Parity.
When you work in an international law firm you know these things: Women's Rights, Black People's Rights; LGBT Rights. You can't escape those emails.
But when I saw my BBM friend update 'Why are we celebrating today? Do we have an International Men's day. What is the aim of this day?' I knew I had a bit of responsibility. So amidst preparing for a deal closing tomorrow, I had to do this.
First of, and to get that out of the way, yes, there is an International Men's Day - November 19. Moreso, the men get the whole month of November for their Movember no shave thingy.
These days are 'International' day because it is officially recognized by the United Nations.
International Women's Day (IWD) aims to achieve full gender equality for women in the world. March 8 of every year, the world is forced to recognise these inequalities – and celebrate the achievements of women who have overcome these barriers.
Sometimes I'm not even sure where I stand on this equality debate. Surely I believe women should be educated. Women should vote. Women should drive. Women should not be forced into marriage. Women should not be abused. My male counterpart shouldn't be paid more than me, and shouldn't be unjustifiably promoted ahead of me. I also shouldn't be looked upon as being terrible or uninterested at my job because I want to take a year off to have a baby.
On the other hand (and this applies to me as an individual), I don't always want to split a dinner bill with my husband. I don't want to change the tyres of my car when it burst. And at work, if there are heavy boxes of documents to be lifted at work, no please, call the man.
So yes I want social, legal, political and economic equality.
But what if a man (in addition to our normal work responsibilities) is lifting all the heavy boxes at work - should he earn more then? This is where I get confused.
But whatever my personal opinions may be on the above (and apologies if I've over-simplified the issue with my heavy boxes analogy), the reality is that women all over the world are far from being seen as equal to the man, and remain unfairly discriminated against.
And it is against this discrimination that we fight.
Happy International Women's Day. Pledge For Parity. Yay! (and that's a real ecstatic yay).
Here's some interesting facts:
- The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn't close entirely until 2133. I did the maths people - that’s another 117 years.
- This year there is a Google Doodle marking the celebration featuring women and girls across the world who complete the sentence ‘One day I will’, talking about their dreams and ambitions. Interestingly some girls just want to swim with pigs in the Bahamas. Two of my favourite cities - Lagos and London make the cut. Watch the doodle here. The full videos are linked in one of the articles below.
- Origin of IWD can be traced to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours.
- In 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19. This year marks the 105th Anniversary.
- In 1913, it was decided that the day should be celebrated on March 8, but was only recognised by the United Nations in 1975.
- It is an official holiday in a number of places including: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia - I bet some people didn't know some of these countries existed. And a woman only holiday? I can hear the men in those countries saying 'so much for equality'.
- Other countries celebrate it in a similar way to Mother’s Day and men give the women in their lives gifts and/or experiences. Most women prefer gifts or both gift and experiences. I know this because of the results of the survey I conducted in my blog post here.
Practical Steps: What can we do to aid Parity
- Be a mentor to the junior women around you - formally or informally.
- Witness sexual harassment or discrimination in whatever form - Speak Up! This includes asking for a pay rise if you think your male counterparts are being unjustifiably rewarded over you.
- Push yourself for career promotions and opportunities - Women automatically assume their employers should see how hard they are working and approach them. No hun. Push yourself. Let them know you're interested in that overseas opportunity.
- Are you responsible for recruiting ? Avoid any biases. Because she has a huge rock on her finger or a huge tummy which houses another human doesn’t mean she shouldn't be hired.
- Are you a Man? Support women. Encourage Women. Do not be biased against Women.
Any thoughts on these guys? (by which I mean both men and women).