It’s 2022, and while Australia has gone from being 17th in equality on the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index in 2007, to currently being 50th, International Women’s Day seemed to be inexplicably filled with cute parties (that a very select group were invited to), free talks being given (by the same select group) and cupcakes.
The time for cupcakes and conversations about feelings has passed. As a very thoughtful member of our community said:
“You can’t fix structural gender inequality with a conversation about feelings.” - Linda Lai
There is a feeling of frustration surrounding IWD events.
International Women’s Day – celebrated annually on March 8 – is a day that commemorates the social, political and economic achievements of women, as well as rallying for equal treatment and representation. We’ve lost our way.
The great thing about IWD is that it is a well established event. It sits on most corporate calendars. It provides a time and space for meaningful change to be brought about. We should use IWD as a time to review the year that has been, reflect on the progress we have made and be ok with recognising that we won’t have achieved all of our goals, acknowledge the things still on your ‘to-do’ list. It’s a time to renew your commitments as an organisation to gender equality. International Women's Day is not something that should be cancelled or ignored, it should be used to its full potential.
We’ve got a year to get ready for IWD 2023. That means a year to make a plan, take action and get change happening and the good news is that there are some simple levers to pull that will make a difference.
Has anyone else noticed the panic leading up to IWD? “Find me a woman speaker!”, “Where are all the women?”, “Who knows a woman who can talk about tech?”. A strange thing happens in late February each year, inboxes start getting an unusual amount of messages asking for women to talk (often for free) at IWD events about their specialisation. These same inboxes don’t get requests during the rest of the year. Odds are that your organisation will have a list of people you reached out to this year, and if not, the PR company you got in touch with will. So why not use that list all.year.round? Women are quite capable of talking at events on other days of the year, and when you ask them to talk, pay them!
While we’re here, make sure your ‘binder of women’ is not lacking intersectionality.
How is gender equality going to occur if IWD events and education is by women - to women?
In Australia, men are more likely to hold positions of power and influence, therefore they need to be in the room. Men should be present on IWD, they should be there to learn, to encourage and to support.
Being an ally can feel difficult at times, there can be fear of making a misstep. So why not run sessions to teach ways of being a good ally? Encourage people in positions of power to take simple actions such as holding space for someone from a minority group when they are talked over in a meeting. Suggest that if you find yourself on an all white, male panel, you know someone else who could take your spot.
Businesses have been solving problems for years, typically they do this with metrics and evidence - and not a cupcake in sight. Let’s use the same process for gender equality in the workplace. The focus needs to be less on individuals, and more on systems, processes and organisations.
There are some great metrics that organisations can use to track their progress:
Setting a baseline for these focus areas along with a commitment for improvement that is evaluated each International Women's Day would make a difference.
Less cupcakes, more change!