International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8, and this year I really feel we should all be joining the current to strengthen that voice!
This year is transitional; I feel it in my gut. It’s unclear yet which shape things are going to take in due time, but a major cultural shift is surely upon us. You can sense it in the atmosphere: that social unease around gender inequality growing strong by the minute. Long untouched discriminative taboos such as the glass ceiling and gender pay gap popping all around the place. So many conversations, NGOs, articles, pledges, hashtags, voices. You really can’t miss how the collective intelligence is aligning, and our societies look readier than ever to take a step forward.
This year marks the 109th anniversary of the International Women’s Day (IWD). 109 years after the first time people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland joined to raise their voices towards granting Women the right to vote, to be trained, and to hold public office. Many things have moved forward in 109 years’ time: we can brag about female prime ministers, female astronauts, girls who can go to university, and ladies who have joined the workforce. Still, as we read on IWD’s official site, although battles have been won, we are still a long long way from ridding society of the “longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy”.
Here’s a list of reasons why this still holds true, and why we really can’t afford to give patriarchy a rest:
- Women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts (IWD)
- Women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics (IWD)
- Globally, Women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men (IWD)
- In dual-career couples, Mothers pay the financial toll of caregiving, resulting in an 20% less overall income, whereas Dads remain largely unaffected (Kleven et.al, 2018)
- Globally, Women would have made 10.9 trillion for unpaid labor in 2019 (New York Times)
- Women still take up the cognitive and emotional labor that household assignments require: the forethought, the planning, the remembering when, where and how to get the job done, while their spouses oftentimes rely on excessive oversight or input from their wives before they are able to perform the exact same tasks. (Eve Rodsky, Fair Play)
The International Women’s Day is an official holiday in Greece and many more countries out there 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, USA, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.
The social tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers. But limiting our engagement with the International Women’s Day to polite domestic gestures and Google Doodles, however cute this may be, simply won’t cut it for what our society needs right now lads.
As Millennial Women and working Parents, we are the ones tackling those issues, and therefore we are the ones expected to lead this grand social shift. It’s our hot potato after all, a problem our own Parents never had to face, given that (for instance) 78% of Millennials in the US are in a “dual career couple” compared to Baby boomers at 47%. (Berkeley) The necessity for Progress on these matters falls on us. As Merry Beth Ferrante nicely puts it in an article published on Forbes:
#EachForEqual [i.e. this year’s IWD theme] is asking us all to be a voice. Policy changes almost always follow cultural shifts. Our voices will open up the dialog at work and home and shift the conversation. We can change the dynamics in our relationships, share with each other, and demand more of our employers, end #secretparenting at work, normalize caregiving across genders, and ultimately narrow the gap towards gender equity.M.B. Ferrante
The message is clear: enjoy the flowers, but don’t just stand there watching as they get put in vases. Actively engage in the dialogue. Openly. Be a role-model of equality both at work and at home. Be a conduit of the bold message that we aren’t done yet with progress against gender inequality. The struggle is real: discuss it!
Give space to the Female aspect. Acknowledge the uniqueness, the contribution, the struggles and the challenges, and stop the shaming, ignoring or blaming. Make that voice heard so loudly that the system has no other option but to change. Don’t just wait for others to do that work for you. Be the change you want to see in the world. Then, and only then, do we truly deserve to celebrate days like the International Women’s day as something more than wishful thinking on things that require 100 years to actually move forward.
Featured Photo: IWD