Why do I feel ambivalent on International Women’s Day?

I had not planned to post a new article today, but the International Women’s Day (IWD) always leaves me with mixed feelings and I take the opportunity to explain why.

Seeing countless articles, posts, tweets about IWD always reminds me that the world has made great progress in women’s rights in various ways, but for me, it’s also a reminder that the road ahead is still long and challenging, especially following COVID-19 pandemic.  

Here I share a few thoughts with additional readings and describe how to do better. 

It started last year when I found out that at the current rate of progress, it will take >100 years to close the global gender gap and economic gender parity will take >200 years to achieve. This is the conclusion of the World Economic Forum (read more here).

I had no idea such predictions have been made but it becomes particularly worrying since evidence is showing that the socio-economic implications of COVID19 are impacting women disproportionately. 

Indeed, COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities between women and men. The European Commission has just released the first report of its Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and shows that the pandemic has disproportionately affected women’s lives and ‘that progress on women’s rights is hard won but easily lost’.

This report also highlights (among other negative impacts):

  • More women on the COVID-19 frontline (read more here).
  • Intensified violence against women and girls. The number of reports on domestic violence in France increased by 32% during the first week of the lockdown (read more here).
  • Significant impact on unpaid care and work-life balance during lockdowns (read more here).

Globally the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line, reversing decades of progress to eradicate extreme poverty (full UN report).

Thus, much remains to be done to progress and accelerate efforts to achieve gender equality. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to change the status quo as it is now more important than ever to intensify efforts to close gender gaps.

Credit: Fauxels

How can we do better every day? 

We have to address that we are living in a man’s world more than in an equal world. Gender stereotypes and biases exist in every profession but everyone can take action. Here are 3 principles which are important to me:

  • Value diversity – Including women (and under-represented groups more generally) comes with greater variety of skills, experiences, perspectives, increased creativity and engagement.
  • Zero tolerance against harassment, bullying and discrimination – Everyone can make a significant contribution for diversity and inclusion by not turning away from difficult conversations and for speaking up when they witness or experience unacceptable behaviour. Something as simple as talking can also make a difference. 
  • Tackling gender stereotypes and biases among young generations – Gender stereotypes acquired by girls and boys in early childhood are blocking progress toward equality. If gender stereotypes are acquired, it means they’re also preventable. We do have to pay attention to how gender is represented in children’s world through toys, language, fav colour, how they play, etc.

Speak up – Every day is International Women’s Day!

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