It’s International Women’s Day 2021. I have recognized IWD for years; ever since I was Executive Director of a women’s centre back about 15 years ago. Before then, I wasn’t even aware of this day dedicated by the United Nations to “celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women” (Source: International Women’s Day official website).
I was however, like every woman, intimately familiar with the social, economic, cultural and political barriers that exist for women as we strive to achieve the same levels of success as our male counterparts.
Are things getting better? It’s a bit like asking if you notice the effects of a really good moisturizer. Yes, over time certainly there have been positive strides but the day-to-day the struggle for women is real. And that isn’t just some catch phrase.
Here are some stats regarding the impacts of the global pandemic specific to women:
- We have witnessed an increased burden on caregivers. Pre-pandemic, women did 3x unpaid care & domestic work as men (Source: United Nations).
- There has been a spike in domestic violence being reported globally (Source: UN). In Canada 7 of 10 people who experience family violence are women and girls (Source: Family Violence in Canada, Statistics Canada).
- With the pandemic impacting healthcare so dramatically, it’s worth noting that 70% of global healthcare workers are female. And yet only 30% of leaders in the healthcare sector are also female (Source: UN).
- Women make less money than men in the same roles. In Canada women earn on average $0.69 for every dollar earned by men (Source: Canadian Women’s Foundation). Therefore, women are less able to save money, putting them at greater risk of economic shock from the pandemic.
- Women have lost more jobs than men. In the US male unemployment pre-pandemic was 3.55M, post-pandemic was 11M while female unemployment went from 2.7M to 11.5M (Source: UN)
There is still so much work to be done. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the critical issue of racial injustice that has bound and tied generations of women. The theme of this year’s IWD is Choose to Challenge, asking everyone to commit as individuals to call out gender bias and inequity; seek out and celebrate women’s achievements; make the world more inclusive. It is a job for each and every one of us.
I #ChooseToChallenge corporations who portray women with either sexualized or ageist imaging. Too often these are the only two boxes where we “fit”. This imaging at reinforces historic barriers and stereotypes. It undermines our own belief in self. I also challenge corporations who do not, in their leadership represent the community they profess to serve including and especially women of colour.
Personally, I will #ChooseToChallenge my own long-held beliefs that as a woman it’s just natural that I would make less than a man. That it’s just the way it is. No. That may be the way it is now but it shouldn’t be. I’m tired of feeling guilty for asking for a reasonable salary that my male counterparts would have no issue in asking for and would in all likelihood end up receiving MORE. I’m tired of feeling small and overly grateful for any opportunity given me. I EARNED those opportunities. I’ve been working and excelling in my career for decades. Enough.
And finally, I would like to challenge the men in my herstory to look inward, take responsibility for each time you spoke over, shut down, shamed, dismissed, ignored, belittled or worse, abused me or any other woman in your life, regardless of her role. And for those of you who witnessed this happening and said nothing, ask yourself what this contribution to the psyche of your fellow human being must have meant and what, if you were presented with same situation today, would you do differently? Choose to challenge yourself too.
It’s up to all of us.