Reflecting on International Women's Day
Every year when International Women's Day comes around, I'm constantly reminded how lucky I am to live in the generation we are now in. While there is still so much ground to cover, like the glaringly poor recent gender pay gap statistics, I believe there has never been a better time in history to be a woman in Australia.
Yesterday I was invited by the Telstra Women’s Award team for breakfast at the Westin in Sydney with hundreds of other women for a Business Chicks event celebrating International Women's Day. The panel discussion was held together beautifully by Natarsha Belling and featured Jane Caro, Eva Cox and Tasneem Chopra. I nearly spat out my juice when Eva dropped the first F-bomb, but the whole discussion was so thought provoking and great to hear.
As a mum with two sons, I put a lot of thought into my parenting to ensure that they can grow up as respectful men and help to create a more equal world. I want them to know that they can be absolutely anything they want to be and be a good citizen of the world and contribute to it well, whatever that may be.
The Lean In Movement have started the hashtag #leanintogether to honour the men that are with us on this road to equality and it's something that I truly believe in. While women in generations before have fought for the right to have it all, young women of today can now have it all but just because we can, doesn't mean we should.
The societal and internal pressure can sometimes be crippling as we try to be the greatest mum we've ever seen, try to not gain any weight from when we were 16 years old, try to be a loving wife, try to cook amazing meals, keep a house clean, exercise daily, volunteer at school, raise money for charity, build amazing businesses, provide love to our extended family and catch up regularly with friends! I know these are all things that I try to do and it's ridiculous! It simply can't be done all at once and is making a generation of women that are stressed out and surviving on adrenalin.
Jane Caro said yesterday that she wants to see us be 'lazy cows' every now and then. It grew lots of laughter, but there's so much merit to it. I know myself and a lot of women I know have forgotten how to relax, or when we do, we feel like we're not using the time wisely enough and we should be more productive. I'm really good at technology free weekends but then I schedule in all of the family activities and books I want to read and nothing's every left in blank space. We have to also allow the men in our lives to take over some of the areas.
The gender pay gap is now worse than it was in 1985. Deaths from Domestic Violence in Australia have gone up to 2 a week! We need to be content with who we are, but by no means become complacent. There is still so much to grow and achieve in our society. The obstacles for women globally are huge and it's our social responsibility to make the world a better place to live in for ourselves and the people around us.
Define for yourself what sort of world you want to live in and then work out how collectively you can achieve that with your group, it's not a pressure to share alone.
We're so lucky to be exposed to amazing women that inspire us to become greater. The women at Business Chicks, Telstra Women’s Award, Women in Focus, Dell Women’s Entrepreneur’s Network and Veuve Cliquot Business Women are all great crowds of people trying to achieve amazing things.
The parents I see on a daily basis in Begin Bright centres are raising their children differently than the past. Boys are able to play with dolls and cuddle teddy bears at night. Girls can ride bikes and build things. Boys are allowed to show emotion without being called a 'big girl'. Girls can stand up for themselves and not be called a 'bossy boots'. I see a lot of stay at home dads (mine included) mixed in with wonderful stay at home mums. I see people more operating at a team and working with their strengths rather than just what societal stereotypes dictate what they do. I know there are still some pressures around but it's our job to overcome them. Jane said yesterday that "It's still seen as an indulgence for women with children to want to go to work" and I got that a bit at the beginning, but stick it out and everyone gets used to it soon enough.
The change for that is passing through and our children will benefit so greatly from that more equal society, I know I already do. The more that women can attach to their power and men to their emotions, the better off we'll be. Just as we as women have the pressure to be lovely and feminine and submissive, men feel the pressure to stifle emotion, stay strong and lead with power.
The main message I took from yesterday is feminism isn't about raising women up and pushing men down, equality is great for men! Sheryl Sandburg released a statement saying, "When men are 50/50 partners at home, their relationships are stronger and they have more sex. And when they're active fathers, kids are healthier, happier and more successful". How good's that?!
Feminism is about creating an equal society where everyone can thrive. It's about being a good human being living in a good equal society.
I'll be pausing tomorrow to celebrate international women's day and say thank you to the trailblazers that have made this life we lead possible.