Another International Women’s Day And Women Are Mad As Hell! Here’s Why
International Women’s Day has been celebrated on 8 March annually since 1911. While progress has been made, given that it has been over a century the pace of change has been glacial to say the least and frankly, myself and many other women are a bit “over it”! Yes, we are mad as hell, and the older we get, the more likely we are to speak up loudly and boldly because we’ve got nothing to lose!
There are many myths about women at work that are simply wrong. Ironically these myths exist across 10 different countries as diverse as Australia, China, France and the USA, and across four generations. I interviewed 91 women from 10 countries across four generations, Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y for my book Leadership Revelations III How We Achieve The Gender Tipping Point, and women’s experiences were exactly the same.
These are the most common myths about women which are just wrong:
- Women are not as ambitious and competitive as men
- Women are less committed at work once they have children
- Women are too emotional, and don’t like conflict
- Women want it all
- Women do not aspire to leadership roles
- Women with children don’t want senior leadership roles
- Women don’t care about the money
- There is a lack of qualified women for leadership roles
- Today’s workplaces are meritocracies where the best person gets the job!
- If women are given equality, men will be disadvantaged
Let’s look at the facts and statistics, so we can’t be accused of being overly sensitive, taking things personally or out of context, or even creating fake news!
Numbers tell the story, so here are the facts:
- Women make up 47.0% of all employed persons in Australia (ABS 2019, Labour Force)
- Women make up 37.3% of full-time employees and 68.1% of all part-time employees (ABS 2019, Labour Force)
- Workforce participation for people aged 15 – 64 years is 74.0% for women and 83.3% for men (ABS 2019, Labour Force).
- There has ALWAYS been a gender pay gap, and it continues despite four pay equity legal cases in Australia, with average weekly earnings for women 14.0% less than for men (ABS 2019, Average Weekly Earnings)
- For private sector organisations employing more than 100 employees, the gender pay gap is 21.3% for annualised total remuneration (WGEA 2019)
- Average superannuation balances for women at retirement, aged 60-64 is 42.0% lower than for men in the same age bracket!!
- The fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia at present, are women over 55 years old.
- Of all women aged 20-24, 89.9% of women have completed year 12 or above, compared to 84.4% of men (ABS 2018, Gender Indicators)
- Of all women aged 25-29, 44.7% have a bachelor’s degree or above, compared to only 32.1% of men
- Women represent 58.4% of domestic students enrolled in universities or other institutions (WGEA 2018).
Children and Caring Responsibilities
- There are over 1 million single parent families in Australia today, with 82% headed by single mothers, who are 3x more likely to live in poverty
- Since 2012 couples-only families have exceeded couples with children
- Australia’s birth rate has been below the replacement rate of 2.1 since 1976, 44 years!
Women in Leadership
- Women hold 13.7% of chair positions and 25.8% of directorships (WGEA 2019)
- But 35.2% of boards and governing bodies have NO female directors, compared to only 0.9% have no male directors
- 6% of directors of the ASX200 are women.
Earlier this year Tony Abbott said that Australian women need to have more children. Bettina Arndt received an AO for gender equity for men, because men are so disadvantaged from discrimination by the women’s rights movement in Australia. Really? And just this week Tory Shepherd in a BBC documentary suggested that “hordes of women” are calling for a return to 1950s-style marriages and being “traditional wives” who are subservient to their husbands. Women continue to be murdered at the rate of one per week by partners or ex-partners in Australia and it no longer makes the news. Even more concerning is that the rate of violence against Indigenous women is 3.1x the rate of non-Indigenous women. Just to top of the past week in media, Pauline Hanson has called for schools to ban a book titled Gender Fairy which explains LGBTIQ+ issues to children.
The reason women are mad as hell is that no matter what we do to achieve equal pay, the right to be physically safe in our homes, at work and on the streets, and gender equity at work and in society, we are still being told that “Women need fixing.” Women don’t need fixing, system, policies and systemically discriminating processes including recruitment and promotions, need fixing!
Women are more educated than ever, choosing not to have children or get married (for which they are vilified), younger women are becoming more financially independent and yet at the current rate of change, it will take another century before International Women’s Day has any real gravitas or meaning for women.
As a young woman in my 20s I believed that if I worked hard, was a team player and did a good job, I would be afforded the same opportunities and remuneration as my male colleagues. But that has not been so. My career which spans four decades, four continents and multiple industries and organisations has been one of constant challenge, driven predominantly by my gender and stereotypical assumptions about what I am capable of, especially in the context of motherhood. Ironically if you are childless and/or single, you are described as our only female Prime Minister Julia Gillard was, as “barren” and “uncaring.”
For many women this has been their experience and continues to be so for young women today.
The largest challenges as I see them are basically two-fold:
- We need less men making decisions about women’s rights, choices and lives, based on incorrect or misinformed information and stereotypes.
- We need more women openly supporting other women, speaking up boldly for themselves and calling out bad behaviour, inequity, unfairness, sexual harassment and violence against women, physical, verbal and mental!
As a proud and balanced feminist who is increasingly both angry and disillusioned by the rate of change for women, I hope that in 20 years’ time when I take my place at my granddaughter’s 21st birthday, Josephine turns to me and says:
“Grandy, I can’t believe women were excluded from leadership roles in business and politics when you were younger. How quaint! Why did people think women would be happy with that, or should have been excluded as leaders?”
Women have nothing to lose if they speak up except their self-respect and opportunities. Women should no longer accept being ignored, dismissed or invisible. Time to be winning women, not “nice girls!” who have been forced to conform by stereotyping misogyny whether conscious or unconscious.