International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated last Thursday 8 March. The main call to action this year is gender parity. I went to a few events during the week, e.g., Inspiring Women in the Creative Industry, and IWD with KEA and The New Zealand Business Women’s Network. Each of these events had female panels presenting truly inspirational stories and advice; the theme remaining loyal to the desire for equality of the sexes.
The word feminism was used often, which wasn’t a surprise to me seeing as we were discussing gender parity but, generally, the speakers were reluctant to admit it. Is being a feminist a bad thing? I hope all women are feminists because it only means we want equality with men.
Definition from the Oxford Dictionary
Feminism. Noun. The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
I believe Vera Nazarian, author, sums up gender parity best with her quote:
“A woman is human.
She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man.
Likewise, she is never less.
Equality is a given.
A woman is human.”
I assume activities to mark IWD may last all month in the UK, especially as the nation celebrates 100 years since women got the vote. In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In both countries, the women’s rights campaign was led by the suffragette movement in which women fought hard, literally, to get noticed and to be taken seriously as equal members of the community. I believe it’s this type of behaviour that has tarnished the word feminism. However, it was probably the only way women could get noticed over a 100 years ago is such a male dominated society.
I was born, raised and educated in New Zealand. New Zealand is a young country but we are brought up side by side with our male counterparts to have the same hopes, aspirations and dreams. During the 1980’s a government sponsored campaign Girls can do anything was promoted all over the country. It became part of our vernacular and ingrained into our cultural identity as Kiwi women. I had never thought of my gender as a disadvantage, that is, until I started travelling and working in different countries.
Pay parity is currently high on the public relations agenda in the UK and in many countries around the world. There has been a lot of talk in the UK, including Equal Pay Day which marks the day of the year when women in effect begin to work for free due to the pay gap. UK companies with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps this year under a new legal requirement. While it’s only targeting the big employers, I hope action will be taken once the reports are published and the results won’t become just another statistic.
At the beginning of this year, Iceland took legal action on pay parity. Iceland was the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women. What a fantastic advancement! Maybe if we really want results in the UK the government will need to intervene further to make pay parity a legislative mandate.
Women have come a long way since the original suffragette movement. Today I believe we needn’t be aggressive in our pursuit of equality whether we are fighting, not literally, in an organised group or trying to make a difference in our own way. What is important is that we speak; we need to speak up and be heard by our employers and colleagues. We need to speak up at the appropriate time with relevant content so that like our predecessors we are taken seriously and can influence positive change for gender equality.
I hope all women agree that being a feminist isn’t a bad thing.