International Women’s Day is here, and while every organisation has a slew of events lined up, here are a few more tiny ways to get involved in building a better future for both genders; because when women are successful, men are too. There’s enough pie in the world for everyone.
International Women’s Day has had quite the journey. It took over 65 years from the first Women’s Day before the United Nations officially recognized the day in 1977. From 1909 to now, the many marches and revolutions make for a gripping tale. Why not learn a little more about how the day came to be, why 8th March was chosen and the story behind the logo? The UN page is a great place to start but it doesn’t have to end there. Here’s a quick look at the themes over the years.
- 2023: #EmbraceEquity
- 2022: #BreaktheBias
- 2021: #ChoosetoChallenge
- 2020: #EachforEqual
- 2019: #BalanceforBetter
- 2018: #PressforProgress,
- 2017: #BeBoldforChange
- 2016: #PledgeforParity
There are innumerable women authors in the world who published under a male alias; right from The Brontë sisters (19th century) to JK Rowling (20th century) who published her 2013 crime mystery The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Celebrate the change: it’s become far more acceptable for women to write and there’s no better way than to pick up a book written by a woman author; even better if it’s one about gender.
Charlotte Brontë herself stated that “we did not like to declare ourselves women, because – without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called ‘feminine’ – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” And Rowling defended her use of a male pseudonym by saying, “I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career with this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback.”
My favourite book and top recommendation from last year is Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. The book talks about how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives. Irrespective of whether you agree with the book or its premise, it is sure to spark some much-needed conversation on the topic.
Much like writing, it wasn’t common for women to play lead in movies either. Even today, movies with women leads make news because it is one of the many attempts to break the mould. Did you know that 40% of the 2019’s high-grossing US films contained a female lead character, compared with 43% male (with the remaining 17% having ensemble or equal male-female leads)? This is the highest proportion that the survey has recorded, with the earliest figures, from 2002, at 16%. The lowest year was 2011, when the figure was 11%.
While you could read the latest stats here, if curling up in a corner with a book isn’t your thing, why not watch a movie with a non-male lead instead? Thankfully, we have an ever-increasing list of options ranging right from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) to Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022). My favourite would be Erin Brockovich but I am also well aware that no list is truly ever complete without Legally Blonde, so go ahead and create your own list and if you need a little help, here’s one.
Now that we’ve done all the reading, watching and learning, it’s time for a few conversations. For the longest time I believed that everyone was more or less on the same page on gender diversity. However, the more discussions I have with friends, family and strangers, the more I realize how wrong I was. While many people I speak to believe that gender inequality exists, there are extremely divergent views on the cause of impact, the extent of the disparity and what needs to change.
Even with my best intentions, I was and still am the culprit of innumerable transgressions. While conversation alone won’t change behaviour and outcomes, it does expose us to the variety of thoughts that exist and sometimes also forces us to come more prepared to the table than hazy beliefs. My opinions are highly tainted by my life, the exposure to literature and people I’ve come across. I am constantly learning to check my privileges and talking about it forces me to discuss topics that may at times be uncomfortable and even acrimonious. Sometimes, we need to engage in uncomfortable discussions in the hope that they eventually become comfortable because then maybe we’d move to action.
Pick up the conversation on gender with at least one person today. Ask them how they feel about international women’s day and its significance in the world today.
And it all ends with action. Every action, no matter how small (fact: there is no such thing as a small action) has the power to make a difference. The idea isn’t to change the world. Hopefully that’ll happen someday. However, for now, even making a difference to one person can cause a seismic shift to their life. Here are a few ideas on where to begin:
- Buy something from a woman owned business and review it for your friends, family and community. Post a review on their website, or wherever you can.
- Mentor another woman. You know something that another doesn’t. It doesn’t have to be under the guise of mentorship but do for someone what you wish someone had done for you.
- Show gratitude to someone who helped you; especially if she is a woman.
- Take a vow to be the ‘hype guy/girl’ for at least one woman friend. Be the one who thinks every idea of theirs is great and find ways to make it happen even if it’s the worst idea you’ve heard. The world is a vocal place – someone will tell them awful things (even if it’s the truth). You don’t have to be that person. Not today.
- If you have the funds, invest in a woman owned business.
8th March doesn’t have to be the one and only day when something gets done. However, it is a good day to begin and a good reason to spark conversation. If the population of more than 8 million does just one thing on one day a year, can you imagine what the world will look like the next day? If that isn’t reason to hope, I do not know what is.
Happy Women’s Day!
This post was first published here.