Home Opinion Why is International Women’s Day still needed?

Why is International Women’s Day still needed?

by Arthur Kendall
photograph of young women with placard saying gender equality and male and female gender symbols

Another International Women’s Day is upon us (what about women who stay at home and don’t travel..??)

Yesterday I heard someone ask why this still takes place.

Well, when even Google has pay inequity, we will need to keep demanding equal treatment for women until the playing field is genuinely level.

Mountains of statistics show persistent disparity in almost all areas of life, from ministerial and senior and middle management to the infamous gender pay gap.

Despite my best efforts to stay focussed on the message, I couldn’t help but go digging for some statistics. Below you will find a few.

But there are still large gaps in available data and we cannot improve what we cannot measure, as the World Bank points out. They say, for example, that time use data is increasingly important for addressing gender equality, reporting that 135 countries do not provide such data.

World map of female share of senior and middle managment positions, World Bank
% of senior and middle management positions held by women, 2017; the darker the colour the lower the %. Source: World Bank Gender Statistics

Fortunately Google and others will soon have to enlighten us on their hitherto opaque gender data, which hides the fact that men tend to go straight in at higher job levels and pay.

A judge has ruled against Trump’s blocking of an Obama law forcing transparency. With all the dirty laundry hanging out in public, firms will be forced to clean up their act.

The fact remains that most of the world still operates on a patriarchal model, which as I have written about a lot recently (here, my personal blog and elsewhere) has profound implications for both sexes.

We have come a long way in the last 40 years. It is gradually being recognised that we need more women at the top (and, as one columnist pointed out, the right to be unashamed to be at the bottom too!)

Yet with only 26% of US ministerial positions (2016, latest data) and a tiny 22.7% of UK (in China it’s less than 12%), women are still being sidelined in decision-making which affects us all.

And the private sector has seen precious little progress in the last 10 years too, with the US finally breaking 40% of senior and middle management positions held by women, up just 2% on 2009 data; the UK is at 36%, virtually unchanged. We wrote about women on the board back in 2016.

Curiously, in France the percentage is down, in a country where a round 50% of ministerial positions are held by women.

There is also varying degrees of pay disparity, which is simply unacceptable in this day and age, when it has been shown time and time again how much women contribute.

The argument about taking time out to have a family simply does not wash for so many reasons.

First, parenting is a skill – or rather a collection of skills – which is hugely valuable in any organisation. Since being “allowed” to work, women have had to become experts at task and time management, juggling work and home life.

As men, we have not generally stepped in to help in the proportion that women have in their financial contribution to the household. There’s another statistic there, but this post has already turned into a collection of stats instead of an opinion piece!

Responsibility (what greater is there than to be responsible for a life), cohabitation and teamwork, patience and persistence, compromise…the list goes on.

These are not skills unique to women, of course. And if more men took on more parental responsibilities, perhaps they would acquire more of these skills too!

Being a father is the most wonderful experience, but only if you take the time to actually be one. If more men did so, they would, perhaps, better understand women.

Fortunately, things are also changing to allow this to happen (more paternity leave, etc) and it should be encouraged.

Custom graphic showing Female/male gender pay gap. Source: United Nations Gender Statistics
Female/male gender pay gap. Source: United Nations Gender Statistics

A handful of countries like Anguilla have slightly higher female pay; this doesn’t mean women are better treated, of course, but that’s a whole other story and debate.

On this International Women’s Day, therefore, we join our voice to the millions calling for more action to recognise the need for – and above all the benefits of – treating both men and women equitably.

We look forward to the day where there is no need to talk about “women in business” any more than men in business – a purely segmental mechanism, if indeed such is required, to help address any specific needs of each sex.

I would argue that if we do things right, there will be less and less need for that, either. That people of both sexes have similar challenges and successes and these depend more on personality than sex.

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