Today is International Women’s Day. A day I well and truly respect and have been part of in previous years. It still makes me so sad to think of what women throughout the world have to endure because of their gender. Culturally, we are so lucky as women that, while we may not quite be at equality in terms of pay and career, we mostly do not have to suffer physically due to our gender, or be subjected to horrific sexual degradation or mutilation. I can’t even imagine some of the things young women throughout the world have to experience. We have a long way to come as a gender, which is why I think global events like International Women’s Day are so important.
I think I would proudly call myself a feminist. Not a man hater. On the contrary, I love men. Well, some of them. But that goes for women too! I think I’m a feminist more in that I would love to see the equality we deserve. In our culture, that equality typically equates to careers, and receiving the same pay for the same job. To think that a woman would be paid less for doing the exact same role is just mind boggling.
I also think we need to be more mindful of the differences between men and women. While we’re all human, we definitely don’t tick in the same way. Both men and women are led by their hormones. For the human race to survive over the centuries, that typically equates to men being more ‘aggressive’ and women being more ’emotional’. I think, as the years go by, these hormonal differences are blurring somewhat. Women are certainly becoming more aggressive and men more emotional. But we mustn’t feel held back by these hormonal differences.
If put in a difficult situation, if presented with conflict, if frustrated, if angry, if tired, I cry. It’s my default response and one I can rarely control. I try to hold it back but it wells until I can escape somewhere to release it. That response is driven by my hormones.
Men in similar situations are likely to react much differently. They are more likely to get verbally or maybe physically aggressive. Again, a response driven by their hormones. Crying for males is typically reserved for sadness.
I do think this difference in reaction leads to a lot of the inequality and the glass ceiling that women face. Get angry and aggressive in the boardroom and you’re in control. Get tearful and you’re not. I do think that, if we accepted crying as a typical response, something we didn’t have to do in secret in a toilet cubicle, something that was accepted as typical a response as aggression, we could break down a lot of barriers. I used to hold back tears. I used to see crying as a form of weakness. Then I realised it for what it is. If everyone could do the same, maybe crying would become more accepted, including in the workplace.
I think there also needs to be acknowledgement of the other role many women have to play – that of mother. And the role of mother is again different to that of father, thanks to our hormones. Our hormones are shouting at us to nurture. As such, many mothers don’t want to work long hours or travel long distances, as their heart leads them to home. Again, this can also be true of fathers. But the hormonal differences typically mean that it is the woman who wants to be the main caregiver. If workplaces became more accepting of family roles, and the importance of them, not expecting anyone, male or female, to work unreasonably long hours, then everyone would benefit. Yes, businesses have a financial duty to make as much money as they can. But a workforce drives that business. A happy, healthy workforce. This definitely is not just applicable to women. And yet it is women who often have to take time off when their children are poorly, or leave early to pick them up. If workplaces were more encouraging of family roles, maybe our careers or pay packages wouldn’t have to suffer.
I hope, as the years go by, and sooner rather than later, we see equal pay for equal roles. But more than that, I hope other cultures throughout the world start to respect females, and their bodies, more. I couldn’t imagine my girls growing up in a culture where they are not entitled to an education, or to have their own career. Where they might be disrespected due to their gender. Or where they may face horrific life changing experiences, like sexual abuse and genital mutilation. I can barely even think about it. And yet it’s happening, right now, and maybe even closer to home than we’d like to face up to.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’. In 2030, Ella will be 17 years old and Sienna will be 15. They won’t yet have started their careers, though their educations will be leading them in that direction. I want my girls to know they can be whatever they want to be. Be that a doctor, nurse, actress, human rights lawyer, secretary, retail assistant, or stay-at-home-mum. Their happiness is what matters. But whatever role they choose, I want them to be doing that role at the same pay as their male counterparts. And, if Planet 50-50 by 2030 is achieved, that will be the case.
So, today, I am proud to be the gender I am. I hope that all women around the world are proud to be that gender too. And happy to be that gender. I am woman.
Happy International Women’s Day.