International Women’s Day – A perspective from Karen Wood
“When is International Men’s Day, then?” jested one of my male friends, upon mention of the upcoming celebration.
“Um, every day for the last thousand years, plus?” was the riposte.
I am lucky. In the grand scheme of things, I have nothing to complain about. It’s suggested that our generation don’t know real hardship, and due to a lack of impending doom, Millennials simply require something else “to whine about.” Granted, my chances of being caught up in the throes of war are slim to none, as I wander home through the vibrant streets of Newtown, I feel safe catching the late-night train, as a solo female traveller after a night’s sporting action, and I’m confident that my professional capabilities are recognised as being worth the same monetary value as a man with similar experience in my sector.
This poses the question, in 2018, do we still need to celebrate International Women’s Day? In an age where we have the highest equal rate of female CEOs in the ASX 200, and have held the right to vote for over a century, what is the relevance? In a year which saw the rise of the “Me too” campaign, I identify with ex-Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, when he stated that we are now: “sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past, so women can advance across new frontiers.” For people like me, who consider themselves fortunate, these frontiers are far differing from those which confront, for example, the women of Saudi Arabia, who were only recently granted the right to vote.
I’m a proud Scot, where fearless red-headed women, tossing the caber and holding office in parliament make up 51% of the population (*50% of that statement is factually accurate…). I’m the daughter of a successful woman who holds a senior managerial position in the NHS, was always the larger earner in my household, and commands respect without ever being labelled a “ball-breaker” or “bossy.” I work amongst the most talented cohort of women that I’ve ever had the pleasure of recruiting alongside, whose performance, sector-specific knowledge, emotional intelligence and work ethic would outstrip much of the industry (irrespective of gender). My current objectives include beating my Director in our fitness testing review, as part of a company culture that promotes not only professional success, but mental and physical well-being. As I said, I’m lucky.
So what bias does a Sydney-based, 28-year-old female face in 2018, and what significance does International Women’s Day hold for me?
According to The Independent, we’re still “118 years away from closing the gender pay gap.” As a female recruiter in a male dominated market, this means that I will fight for my female candidates to be paid equally, in line with the industry benchmark and I will strive for parity in short-listing. I’m pleased to report that this is not a fight we regularly encounter, and we’re further buoyed by reports from Australian universities which suggest that current student numbers across Property Economics have improved significantly, with UTS’ course sitting at 31% female representation. *
However, we’re cognizant that- at more senior levels- this parity will take time and is largely driven by the shift in interest in this sector, with broader educational opportunities promoted to young women as they contemplate their direction in the workforce.
Considering myself lucky doesn’t mean that I haven’t faced harassment (free advice: winking at your recruiter, grabbing their hand and telling them you’d like the interview to extend because “you’re having a great time, mademoiselle” won’t get you on a short-list any time soon); nor felt dejected as the solitary female party in a meeting with male executives, with the conversation, and expected answer, very clearly directed at my male colleague.
I’d encourage both men and women, this IWD, to be conscious of how we address the talented individuals we work alongside, and not to be swayed by gender- i.e. if you’re going to describe me as “glamorous”, please extend the same compliment to my colleague, Jack (I don’t think he’d mind- he’s a laid back sort of chap- but you get my point) and strive to include both glamorous beings, equally, in conversation. Let’s re-think how we describe women in power, and direct the conversation toward her achievements, as opposed to the age-old “but can you really have it all?”
I believe that where we look for the negative, we will find it- so, instead, this IWD, let’s celebrate the huge strides we’ve made over the last century and work, tomorrow and each day thereafter, to further reduce the bias that women (and other minorities) face, by playing our own small part in the process.
*Thanks to UTS Careers for this statistic. Back to news