I’m not a big fan of International Women’s Day.
WHAT? Does that make me a chauvinistic pig? You may thinks so, but bear with me.
So what is IWD? From the UN:
It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.1
Yay! That’s a good thing. I do believe that, but why do we need to do this? Why do we need to celebrate the achievements of women when a woman’s success should be every bit as expected as that of a man?
Where I work, there is a goal to have 50% of senior management positions filled by women by 2017. Sounds laudable, doesn’t it? Unfortunately this does not actually address the issue.
In order to understand the issue we need to look at what we do to the young girls in our society. Now these comments made to young girls are from what I have personally witnessed:
- “Don’t play with that, you’ll get all dirty and you wouldn’t want to spoil your pretty dress.” All the while the boys are doing exactly that (not the dress but you get what I mean).
- “One day when you get older, you’ll find a good man to take care of you.” No one ever tells a boy he’ll find a good woman to take care of him.
- To the boys, “don’t you be too rough on her.” That’s fine when she is younger, but when she is the same age, not so much.
- “That’s not very lady like.” With sisters, that’s probably the one I heard the most.
There are a lot of others but they all have the same underlying precept; females are weaker and less able than men. We drum it in to them from a young age. Families drum it in, schools drum it in, the media drums it in. Girls that play with boys in junior school are called tomboys. Boys that play with girls are called sissies. We divide them from a young age. We do this so effectively that if a woman succeeds then it is something of note.
That’s really quite sad.
A look at the full time workforce data2 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows the following:
The above table shows the breakdown of men and women in full time employment. Whilst things have improved in the last 38 years, the progress is really quite slow. If we keep looking at statistics they will all tell a similar story. How can a company have women in 50% of senior management positions when they don’t represent 50% of the full time workforce (senior management is generally more than a full time job).
Demanding numerical parity and celebrating those that overcame the odds isn’t going to fix the problem. It’s nothing more than a band-aid on a bigger problem. We need to start earlier than that. We need to start when they are babies. We need to get rid of the concept of boy’s toys and girl’s toys. There are just toys. Let the children play with any toy they want. We need to stop telling them they can’t do something because it isn’t gender appropriate.
We need to encourage our children to imagine that they can be anything they want.
Boys and girls should be a matter of physiology, not of ability and potential. Our language needs to change.
Our daughters deserve better.