Stories

Can we chat…IWD 2020

International Women’s Day 2020.

I enjoy seeing the profile on my social media feeds and events that are being under the banner of IWD. We post pictures of other women; we hold events for women to come together to celebrate the day/week. All fabulous ideas but what are we trying to say and profile by sharing a photo of fellow women in a workplace?

That we have ‘made it’? That all is sweet…look we have women in OUR workplace!

Don’t look too closely at the pictures or you might see that they hold junior positions, there are few in leadership roles. If you zoom in closely you might see the dark rings under their eyes as they were the ones up all night with a fussy child, and busy doing the cooking, washing and ironing after a long day at work. You might spot a few are missing from the photo as they were the ones that had to take a day of unpaid leave to look after a sick child or parent. Or others a missing because they have self esteem issues or feel worthless due to verbal domestic violence by their partner in the privacy of their own home.

But all is sweet isn’t it?

I view this day as an opportunity to openly discuss social issues and decisions that continue to enable inequality for women across many facets of our lives. I do recognise we have come a long way and we are not having to chain ourselves to fences to have the right to vote in 2020…but we can do more?

Take for example these passing remarks I have heard in my own community over the last 12 months:

March 2020: “Why aren’t they offering courses for girls, like hairdressing, beauty, childcare, aged care? Why is it only courses for the boys like mechanics and welding?”. Yep this was a comment this week from a woman who works in a job agency, a position of influence who could empower women to be what they want to be.

November 2019: Graduation day for long time unemployed, mostly women at a local college. Male trainer said to me “Well hopefully you see these ladies working in an office or a coffee shop sometime soon…”. Apparently, there isn’t opportunity to allow these women to consider a job or career in anything else?

August 2019: A woman friend was chairing a meeting, the only woman in the room. A male entered the room and asked if SHE could go get some biscuits and take a coffee order for the group. She was more annoyed at herself that she did go get the coffees and biscuits…without calling the issue out.

February 2020: “I have to go back fulltime; my son is now 12 months old. My workplace doesn’t have a return to work program so its fulltime or leave. I didn’t even know it had maternity for my first child, no one said anything”.

January 2020: “I’m leaving research. It’s too hard and brutal on my mental health to compete for grants as I’m seen as child-bearing age.” So we lose talented 26/27-year-old female scientists who could be making a huge impact for our future due this conservative attitude and decision making power held by in many cases, privileged white males over 55?

October 2019: “Its really hard trying to juggle work and being a mum, doing the housework, school things.” It seems woman still think we must do it all.

September 2019: “I’m going to get <husband and children’s father> to babysit the kids so I can go out”. Why do we still view it as babysitting when the father looks after their own children?

March 2019: “When is International Men’s Day?”…and this was asked by a woman.

We may mean well but if we continue to just profile photos of women in a workplace and use language like the comments above, change and attitude will be at a snail’s pace. As well as celebrating the contribution women, both past and present make to our society on this IWD take opportunities over lunch or coffee to talk with both males and females how we can make changes to ensure equality for the future.

Let’s make IWD more than just saying “Happy International Women’s Day”. Let’s make it more than just the “Oestrogen Club”.

Let’s make it about bringing change.

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FOOTNOTES

Image is a cake taken to a workplace this week to at least create a profile about the day. There were quite a few smirky smiles from the males…and they thought the cake was good but Im not sure it achieved anything about bringing change. Maybe next year!

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