Like any other specific celebration day – Valentine’s day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, International Women’s Day has a history to it. Every year a week before March 8, there are global discussions on whether or not a specific day is required to celebrate Women. But the answer whether a Women’s day is required or not becomes clear when we consider why it started in the first place, what is being done now and what can be done in the future.
How it all started
It emerged as a result of labor movement activities at the turn of the twentieth century. Since 1909 where it was first observed in the US to honor women protesting against bad working conditions, this day has been accepted worldwide to honor women who have fought for equal rights and participation. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally-agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.
To believe that women are equal to men today after over 100 years of fighting over equal representation in all areas irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, caste, creed, culture, or divisions would be an understatement.
Facts say it all
So do we need this day? Let me explain ‘why’ with just a few recent worldwide statistics. In 2012, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) revealed that worldwide women are paid on average 18% less than their male counterparts at work. In some countries and type of work, the percentage even goes up to 50% less. The situation is not very different in 2015 where men dominate the world of paid work. The human development report says that men get almost twice that of women in paid work. Women dominate the unpaid work category with includes housework and care facilities. And consider this – out of all the global work, women do 52% of it but still face many disadvantages in terms of opportunities and pay.
In 2015, the Atlantic ran an article which covered stories about gender inequality in workplace, government and the Academy of motion pictures – all high profile jobs with poor representation of women and minorities. This is true of most professions in the world except the unpaid work category.
All these are facts when it comes to just equal pay and wages. The facts are even worse when it comes to equal opportunities. Only 5% of all Fortune 500 CEOs is women and there is a subconscious bias when women speak up. Only about 15% have a woman founder in the 2,200 odd technology startups receiving funding from 2009 to 2014. Where are the opportunities? A simple statement to ponder over is if almost half the world is made up women, then shouldn’t all jobs and workplaces also have equal representation of women?
Is this day overshadowed by tokenism?
No this day is not just tokenism according to me. This day is still needed and relevant; to be celebrated by both men and women because the world is still not equal. To not observe Women’s day is like saying a country will not observe Independence Day because it is already independent. Such days are reminders that there is a lot of work to be done – to not just celebrate diversity through the year but make one day special when women are acknowledged for their strength and fight. I am sure if it will give a lot of confidence to people still fighting for the cause. But the need first is to agree that there is a problem.
Once the fundamental issue is noted, there are many things we can do to teach our boys and girls the importance of women at workplace as I had said in one of my previous blogs.
- Educate both boys and girls from childhood that men and women are inherently different and different does not mean inferior. They should be taught to celebrate diversity. For a woman to be a weak carbon copy of a man would be futile, what instead should be done is to identify her strengths and cultivate those.
- Women should start voicing their opinions more often and speak up. Sheryl Sandberg talks about this in depth and how women need to say what is on their mind and not accept stereotypes if they don’t believe in them.
- Men should be educated and sensitized to age-long practices that have become a norm. Roles are changing with more women getting educated and working than before, and one should be able to accept this change.
Have you come across any situation where men and women have not been treated equally? Let’s all take a minute today to observe some of these inequalities in our daily lives and come up with solutions to fix it. Some of the toughest scenarios have the simplest answers.