Be Bold for Change – International Women’s Day 2017
International Women’s Day 2017 challenges us to Be Bold for Change – change to an inclusive world where women have more opportunities for rewarding work and better working conditions. This International Women’s Day invites us to celebrate the enormous changes in the lives of women over the past 50 years. In general, women live much longer, are better educated, healthier, have increasing control over their lives and many now own small and medium size businesses ensuring security and well-being for their families.
But there is much to be done and change will not happen without bold action – action which fights discrimination, challenges gender stereotypes and shakes up the cultural and social structures which keep women in their place. At a recent meeting the World Economic Forum predicted that the gender gap would not entirely close until 2186 – much too long! Too long for women discriminated against on the basis of gender, pregnancy or caring roles.
The 2015 Australian ANZ Report on Women concluded that the single most important reason many women in Australian continue to earn lower wages than men for similar work is gender. The Report indicates that women are disadvantaged from the very beginning as women entering their first paid job after university graduation earn, on average, 4% less than men for no obvious reason! Wage inequality, child bearing and caring for children and aging parents leave women at a considerable disadvantage all their lives. That 90% of Australian women will have inadequate savings for their retirement led former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick to ask: Is poverty the reward for a lifetime spent caring?
Across the globe there have been considerable advances in the education of women particularly in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia but these, frequently, do not translate into employment. Women are over-represented in low paid, casual jobs with unequal rates of pay which are, increasingly, part-time.
Gender bias is embedded in the culture of most nations and it will require bold action to overcome. In a recent IWDA talk, for example, Dame Helena Kennedy QC made the point regarding the law that you don’t have to believe in patriarchy to realise that the law was made by men and that the same goes for parliament, which means that in all the making of the law women are largely absent. It is not surprising the law doesn’t work for women. Recent investigations and research into the College of Surgeons indicates deeply entrenched bias against female medical graduates.
So what to do? Accept the status quo or take a stand against gender discrimination? What happens in my workplace? Can I plan one action this year which will contribute to the recognition of women at work and all they can contribute? Take a bold action for change.
Words: Coordinator Loreto JPIC, Libby Rogerson ibvm