The day recognising gender equality, International Womens Day or IWD was celebrated this last week. I happen to be in the city for celebrations, including watching a debate titled “Who needs feminism anyway”. It provided some great points from both sides of argument, I was agreeing and nodding throughout.
Females, particularly younger women working in 2016 are enjoying the work of the feminist movement of last century. Have we made progress? Yes.
My mother left work the day she married to be a house wife and mother. The only jobs she had after that were part time to help the household budget and a silent understanding they would fit into her household duties, which virtually meant only during school hours.
I have enjoyed a successful career, once the children were older and at school, with a lot of support from my mother. I can still remember when my third daughter was born the reaction of some males. “You will try again for a boy wont you?” “Poor husband, no son” and similar were comments we heard. We were determined that three girls would not be disadvantaged, nor need to rely on a male for anything unless it was their choice.
In the early 1990s I attended one of the first women gatherings in a very male dominated organisation. I did not realise the importance of the event at time, almost guilty that we were taking time away to talk women’s business. When I returned my director asked me “how was the hairy-armpits conference”, not meaning any malus but that was the attitude of the time.
I realise I tried to fit into the culture, rather than try to change it. I ‘bloked’ up, I tolerated comments such as ‘don’t worry your pretty little head about that’, I accepted that I was judged on who my father and father in law are, not my own personal achievements. For the sake of a career and acceptance.
I hope my girls are experiencing a different world. As I watched the debate on IWD I did wonder if country areas are making the change a little slowly than metropolitan areas.
My eldest daughter works in the local pub. She has come home from one her shifts very angry as she had to politely listen to a man mouthing off that a woman’s place in the kitchen, boasting they wont do the housework, its woman’s work to cook dinner, clean, wash, iron, make their man happy. This is in 2016. My heart went out for her. When the IWD debate confidently voiced that men should share 50% of the housework I did wonder how that statement would stand up at the local country pub.
Speakers at the debate told us about pay inequality between men and women and shared facts about few women in leadership roles in large companies. I wonder whether these stats are different regional versus metropolitan. I know quite a few women own small businesses in my local area, however I do hear comments that the business is only a hobby to keep her happy, its not a ‘real business’ as if a women could not do all that by herself, there would be a husband or male of some sort in the background. I kid you not!
I look at young girls in the country and wonder if they are brave enough to negotiate flexible working hours, or whether some businesses even understand the benefits this could bring to them. Is that why we seem to have so many young women entrepreneurs in our town? Is this an easier option than to fight the long standing traditions and attitudes of some established businesses? Or do I just notice them more as I am very proud of them? I suggest they are making their own road, not bloking up to fit in like I did. It’s a shift.
As part of my trip to the city I also met some wonderful people working for Good Return. This is a charity that provides people, particularly women living in poverty with access to responsible microfinance and skill development opportunities. I learnt about their program in Tonga. As I heard about how they work with women to describe simple goals such feeding their children 3 meals a day it sure put arguing about who should clean the toilet in perspective.
I will provide more detail in a future blog, but in the meantime if you wish to read more about the great work they do head over to www.goodreturn.org.au.
I am going to Tonga later this year, and while I am funding my own travel we are also raising money towards Good Return great work. Read more about what we are doing and if you wish, donate at https://tonga2016.goodreturn.org.au/angela_mccormack/.
Images: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / mbolina & © Can Stock Photo Inc. / fouroaks