What Women Want

Since 1913, March 8th has been the date of International Women’s Day, and the day itself has existed for a few years before that. It’s aim has always been equality for women, historically with voting rights, and continuously for equality in the workplace – including closing that darn gender gap which seems so difficult to keep shut. (FYI- Currently at 14% in the UK, and around 18% in the US.)

And luckily, we live in a time where no one believes in enforcing inequality or sexism at work anymore. Don’t believe me? Just go ask anyone in your office. Should women have the same rights, pay, and opportunities as men do? “Of course!” they’ll say. “What a crazy question!” they’ll laugh nervously. “I have a wife!” they might add, as if that somehow distances them from sexism in any way whatsoever.

So these examples which I’m about to give you, of the 100% real-life gifts which companies decided to hand out for this years International Women’s Day, should absolutely not be seen as sexist. They can’t possibly be. The men are just trying to be nice, stop getting so hysterical about it, are you on your period?

But just for funsies, let’s have a think about the alternatives which companies could have chosen, if they had thought about it a little more deeply, or perhaps chosen to invite a woman or two to the meeting where these IWD celebrations were decided on.

Nail Varnish

Happy International Women’s Day! We thought we would spoil you this year with something just for you… make up! Take twenty minutes later on in the day, maybe after you’re done with your chores, and paint those nails, girls. We’ve got both pink and red, so you can decide if you want to be soft and approachable, or sexy and vampish.

Next Year

“As the life course of women often involves economic inactivity, part-time work, unpaid work, lower wages and an average of five years’ shorter working life than men, they face a significant risk of poverty in old age. In the EU, 18% of women and 12% of men aged 75-plus are at risk of monetary poverty.”

How about we take a look at the old age provision for women? Maybe companies could offer extra incentives towards their pension funds, or provide better semi-retirement options for women in their sixties?

Baking Tins

Oh, maybe I’m being a bit harsh with this one. After all, baking is a fun activity which anyone can take part in. And hey, the company in question did buy tins for the men as well as the women. Oh wait, what’s that on the men’s ones? It’s a card which says “For the woman in your life”. Because imagine if a man tried to do all that stirring and measuring, gosh they would just end up using the tin as a football or something. Someone better tell the 81.5% of professional chefs who are men that they’re in the wrong career.

Next Year

According to a RandstadUSA study, “58 percent of women said the lack of a clear path to leadership roles was one of the key factors that contributes to gender inequality in the workplace. And while mentorship and leadership programs are known to be crucial to one’s career success, just 23 percent of women said they are offered these resources by their current employer.”

This one seems pretty simple. Start a mentor program for women, and establish leadership paths which work to combat macho gender stereotypes of leaders. The Sandberg #MentorHer campaign is a great place to start.

Pink Popcorn

See what they did there? Usually, the snacks at the weekly meeting aren’t dyed any colour at all. We just keep them their usual colours! It’s crazy that women understand which ones to eat at all. If I had a penny for every time a woman has tried to eat the whiteboard eraser instead of the chocolate cake. Seeing as it’s Women’s Day, we’ve tracked down woman popcorn! Hopefully by next year we’ll have those lady Doritos everyone’s looking forward to so much.

Next Year

In the EU, women account for only 7% of board chairs and presidents and 6% of chief executives in the largest companies. More people called David and Steve lead FTSE 500 companies than women and ethnic minorities put together. And yet, studies show that having more women in senior management improves the financial security of companies and makes them manage risk better.

Corporate leaders need to show that they are investing in change. Talks and workshops by successful women are one great way to show female employees that you want to empower them for career success, but actions speak louder than words. If you aren’t satisfied with the idea that the gender disparity in wages looks set to continue until 2059, follow the example of Salesforce CEO Marc Beinoff who spent $3 million last year to fix the pay gap in his company.

A Magnet… Of a woman shopping… With the word ‘Stunning’ on it.

What’s great about this IWD gift is that it can go on the fridge. In the kitchen. Where women live. And it’s got a picture of a woman shopping on it. Which is the only other place women go! Lots of thought was put in here, to ensure that it really ticks all the boxes. Plus it’s got a compliment on it, so the women know we haven’t failed to notice they have great legs in those uncomfortable shoes we like them to wear.

Next Year

A huge roadblock which stops the advancement of gender equality is that women are still seen as the ‘natural’ choice for childrearing duties and other caregiving responsibilities. “Almost every second working woman spends an hour or more caring and educating children or grandchildren, elderly or disabled people during the day, compared with only about a third of working men.”

Using all the time you save not buying sexist magnets, take a look at the parental leave you offer, and consider offering fathers more paid time off for emergency family care and paternity leave. How are your flexible working opportunities, and do they allow for women to balance having kids with advancing in their careers?

 

It’s not rocket science, and seeing as we’ve been asking for more than 100 years now, it would be great if we didn’t have to keep highlighting this disparity, as well as convincing the world that it exists in the first place.

If you work at a company who gave a tone-deaf International Women’s Day gift this year, say something to HR. If you were in on the meeting where the company decided to buy all the women some pretty flowers and a themed cupcake, own up to it, and do better next year. If you work in a position of authority in your office, take steps to make these statistics better for 2019. And if on top of motivation and policy change, you still want to give out gifts? Lovely! Just don’t dye them pink.

gender pay gap.png

 

Today I Do…

Facebook reminded me this evening of the post I wrote last year, on International Women’s day 2016. It was called One Day I Will… and it was about how I look to my daughter when I can’t find the strength in the usual role models many women have.

Michael J Fox has said that Family is not an important thing, it is everything. This year, it often feels like the whole structure of my family as I once knew it has been ripped apart at the seams. And so if family is everything, it’s easy to slip into feeling like I have nothing.

I have seen so many brave and interesting posts today from friends and strangers alike about International Women’s Day. The worst of them were questioning the need for the day in the first place, as if they were somehow put out by it’s very existence, and couldn’t just get on with their Wednesdays. The best of them were supportive, proud, strong, and full of support. And it got me thinking. Aren’t those the very best descriptions of family you could imagine?

Unfortunately and painfully, this year, one woman in my life has turned against me for standing by another. The former is blood, and the latter is one of the strongest, most supportive women I could wish to have in my world, and is every part the family I would choose, and have chosen.

I agree with Michael J Fox. Family is everything. But just as so many incredible women have shown me, it isn’t just the family you’re born with. I have a family with whom I share no kin whatsoever, made up of playdates and favours, of shouting each other coffees and coming round with surprise gifts just because. It’s packed to the brim with jumping on a plane, or listening to each other cry, it’s laughing so hard you can’t breathe, it’s sending memes at all hours of the day and night. It’s made up of love.

A working mother’s Facebook group that I’m on has a tradition called ‘bragging Wednesdays.’ The entire point is that women can share their achievements, and be encouraged and applauded by other women. They range from starting your own business or making multi-million dollar deals, to getting the kids to school on time, or carving out some space for yourself in the busy never ending to do list of life. It’s supportive, it’s lovely, and it’s powerful.

There will always be negativity, and trolls, and people who think that you’re doing the wrong thing, failing to see just how much anxiety we all have about our decisions already, without their input.

Me? I surround myself with the family I choose, the ones who have proven themselves deserving of that word. You brilliant amazing women you, you all know who you are. Happy International Women’s Day, and I love you.

 

 

One Day I Will…

We look to our mothers. As women, I mean. We look to our mothers to see what being a woman is all about, what’s going to happen when we grow up, what our place in the world might one day look like. Little girls with too big handbags on one shoulder, a playphone tucked under our ears as we stir fake soup on a tiny version of the kitchen we beg for treats in. We take everything in, and learn silently how to hold ourselves, how to talk and argue back and reason and pick our battles. How to care and nurture and go out to work and build a home.

But what happens if what we’re looking at is intrinsically flawed? If that formative relationship is poisonous instead of restorative? You want to find a life-long partnership and your mother insists on being hopelessly alone. You want to create a career which you love, but your mother never loved a thing in her life. You can’t imagine a future where your children don’t mean everything to you, but your mother doesn’t know the first thing about you or your siblings. Who should you look to then?

I don’t know about you, but I look to my daughter. This week is Mothers Day, and International Womens Day too. So many people seem to feel that they can’t be feminists, or worse still, that they are somehow ‘bad’ feminists because their main focus is on being a mother. Whether you choose to work at home or out, have kids or not, wear red lipstick and thigh high boots or dungarees and army boots, I wish more women understood that simply to support each others choices and freedoms is to be a feminist.

“My mother taught me…” “My mother showed me..” I won’t pretend I don’t envy the strong and smart women around me who have been given their confidence in feminism as an inheritance. Passed down, from one generation to the next. My feminism is uglier than that, more awkward, self-made. But there’s something pretty special about that too. I’m creating something brand new, something I never had. I was told quite plainly by the woman who should have made me feel invincible, that “It’s only natural to love your sons more than you love your daughters.” So how could I help but feel somehow inferior? Almost.. unwanted.

And yet, this year on Mothers Day, and this year on International Womens Day, for the first time I have a daughter of my own. A daughter I love so much I sometimes think I might squish her little face off. A daughter I want to inherit not just my feminism, but the whole wide world too. A daughter who I want to feel invincible.

So I look to her. I look to her despite my gaze being dragged towards the past more often than I’d like. I look back to her every time I forget that I’m not inferior. I look to her to decide what my place in the world should look like, what being a woman should be all about. I look to her so that ‘One Day I Will’ see her looking back at me.