Since the early 1900s, International Women’s Day has been celebrated globally – it is a day to celebrate all the achievements of women socially, intellectually, economically, professionally and politically, as well as continue the push for gender equity.
It is now celebrated on 8 March each year and according to the official website :
International Women’s Day is all about celebration, reflection, advocacy, and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for over a century – and is growing annually from strength to strength.
Gloria Steinam, a world-renowned feminist and author once famously said:
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.
And that is still true today. If you look at the definition of feminism, it is generally agreed that it is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Who doesn’t want that?
So what is the current state of play? According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency:
The gender pay gap still sits at 17.3% in favour of men.
In managerial positions, women earn up to $100,000 less than their male peers.
Women’s pay peaks at age 31 whereas men’s salaries peak at 39
More women than men work part-time
Gender pay gaps lead to long term earnings shortfall for women
This in turn leads to a corresponding reduction in superannuation shortfall
For the legal profession, we know that over 65% of University graduates are women but that in most large firms the percentage of female partners struggles to make 20 percent. Promotion is still problematic.
So what can you do?
Make sure that your recruitment processes are free of unconscious bias based on gender. We can help you by assessing your requirements and submitting applicants based on the criteria. Everyone has unconscious bias – based on our life experience, our brains take short cuts and make decisions without thinking. Young women have been known to remove engagement rings from their fingers for fear that judgements will be made about their futures – whether children are or are not on the agenda.
Conduct a gender pay analysis – you will soon find out if you have a gender pay issue if you compare salaries across the firm and by level. If you identify there is a problem, commit to fixing it!
One of the most important things you can do is to adopt flexible work arrangements – for ALL staff. Being a woman does not give anyone sole responsibility for collecting children from day care or school. Encourage your male staff with children to take responsibility as parents – they will usually have a partner with career aspirations as well!
In the global context however, it is worth remembering that we still live in a world where:
Women are routinely denied an education
Women do not have the right to choose to have an abortion
Women do not have reproductive rights generally
Forced child marriage exists
Female genital mutilation is an every day occurrence
Women cannot leave the home without a male chaperone
Rape is used as a weapon of war
Women are routinely killed in ‘domestic violence’ incidents
Amongst other atrocities that make me shake my head.
So while there is still much to celebrate and still much to do in terms of gender equity in Australia, International Women’s day is a day to reflect on the achievements of women globally and reflect on the challenges women face across the globe.
I will leave you with the words of our Australian of the Year, David Morrison:
“ The whole debate is not about fixing women, it’s about creating a society where everyone, irrespective of their gender, has the chance to reach their potential”
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