Observed on 08 March annually, International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates womanhood, and the progress of women being recognised for their significant contributions and achievements in terms of political, cultural, economic and social.
At the same time, IWD 2017 brings awareness of the importance of gender parity, of women being able to play a pivotal part in shaping the society and economies, to execute the equal freedom and rights that in some cases - Only men have access to. Afterall, like what the previous First Lady Michelle Obama (whom I admired a lot) mentioned, "There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish”.
As much as there is a call for gender equality in the current society, there is no denial that there is certainly vast improvements of women’s rights and freedom as compared to the early 1900s. Fast forward to the current age, more women have gotten the rights to vote and experiencing less job discrimination over the past century. But more is to done – To empower women and bring forth hope to the misrepresented.
This year’s IWD theme is “Be Bold For Change”, to establish equal freedom and rights to women, like what men got to have all along, especially in workplaces. With the changing world of work where there are more women in the workforce than before, there is much to do to reduce this imparity and injustice faced by women at their workplace – Such as gender pay gap, job opportunities, suggestions not taken seriously, etc. (#beboldforchange)
One example is the recent case by Susan Fowler, a female engineer who worked in Uber – She, along with other female engineer colleagues as claimed by her, faced workplace sexual harassment and sexism. Most left on their own accord, but it means a loss of talent in the company, in the industry or even for the better good of the society. I should not but cannot help to assume that there are many similar situations happening in other companies around the world.
Another example is Yours Truly. As a Sales Account Manager working in an industry that is of (1) male-dominated and (2) engineering field, it was challenging but fulfilling to prove that I, who may be in dresses and high heels, can do as well, or even better, than the male counterparts. There may be some apprehensions by new customers but to gain their trust and business was rewarding. Or that when I tell people I meet for the first time that I am doing sales, they would ask me, in the beauty industry? In a bank? Was it sexism that I encountered? :-/
Some companies are known for their gender diversity practices, while it was reported that more than 85% of FAs on Wall Street are men and 25% of listed companies on Russell 3,000 Index have no female board of directors. Despite that, it is certainly interesting to know that it is the companies that are more gender-balanced which perform better.
Credits: State Street ('Fearless Girl' staring at charging bull,
to encourage more companies to have more gender diversity)
Other than equality in workplaces, I feel that there is more to advocate on and empower women with - Such as healthcare, education and a safe place free of domestic violence. Education is denied for females in some families, communities, but with it, this can change the course of a woman's life, and eventually the society.
A study showed that in US, women account for a majority of college graduates and Fortune 500 entry-level employees but this proportion declines at each executive career stage. Other than due to the possibility of gender imbalance, it may just because some women chose to take a back seat in their career, giving up what they could achieve at work to care for their families. And these stay-at-home-mums are those to be admired.
Over in US, many ladies are participating in “A Day Without A Woman” by taking a day off from work or home roles, avoid shopping (except to small, women- and minority-owned businesses) and wear red (to signify love and sacrifice). As much as it is to highlight that women's presence is not to be taken for granted and how women contributes to the socio-economic system, this strike will affect many businesses and individuals on this day, in my opinion. Is it necessary to be part of the strike? Imagine schools have to be closed as female teachers go on strike. The ones being affected are the schoolchildren! Voicing out for gender parity and to highlight women receiving lower wages, discrimination vulnerabilities, sexual harassment and job security need not go to such an extent.
With that, everyone has a part to play in enabling a change to society's mindset and business practices when it comes to women. But as mentioned by Malala Yousafzai, "We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back" (in recognising the importance of equality and full humanity of women and men). Before I end, wishing all ladies a Happy International Women's Day. May we find love and acceptance in who we are and strength in all the things we do!