Happy International Women’s Day!
The single biggest reason why we still so desperately need International Women’s Day is simple: sexism remains rife in everyday society. Now, there’s a saying that goes like this: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”. Like all change, every one of us need to do our part.
Remember, it isn’t about one-off token gestures, but rather trying to effect lasting change, and change always begin with ourselves. Together, we can build a better, more equitable world.
The first thing you can do is to elect more women, be that as Members of Parliament, Parish Councillor, or just a committee at work. You will undoubtedly have heard people say “I wish we had a leader like Jacinda Ardern”, especially following the brilliant way she handled the COVID pandemic in New Zealand.
The sad truth is that there are many women like Jacinda Ardern around the world. They just don’t get elected into positions of power, where they can be as effective. You can help change that. Wouldn’t it be better to live in a world not mainly governed by self-interested, rich, old men?
Social media has become enormously powerful, and is now typically relied upon to win elections. It’s the voice of the people (ignoring the many thousands of bot accounts for the moment) and you are one of those people. Use your voice for good.
Specifically, use the #ChooseToChallenge hashtag – you can even find some great templates to use here – but please, please don’t for a moment think that having once or twice used a hashtag, you’ve done your bit. To make lasting change happen, we all will need to keep up a sustained effort, but it will be worth it.
Amplify five women
Use the #Amplify5women hashtag, then on social media, name five women who are inspirational to you. Please remember that this doesn’t mean they need to be world leaders, olympic athletes, or similar. You can be just as inspired by that single mother, who’s struggling to make ends meet, holds down two jobs, but is still smiling. Amplify her. Make women like that realise what an inspiration they are to others.
Also, don’t limit this to something you do just once per year. Carry on throughout the year, perhaps on a weekly basis.
It may sound odd to some, but you need to include men if your efforts to create a world where women are true equals. There’s a Harvard Business Review article that shows the staggering gains in effectiveness campaigns for women’s equality can have when they start involving men.
Think about it for a moment: sexism is mostly practiced by men, so it’s imperative that men be involved in campaigns, even targeted by them, to be effective. This is why I wrote No Girls Allowed – A Post Aimed Squarely At Men.
Don’t expect perfection
It is sometimes said that perfection is the enemy of good, and right now, what we want to aim for is good. Just like we encourage and cheer on a baby that tries to walk, yet fails, we need to try an be encouraging of even faltering efforts at improvement.
This is not to say we should accept token gestures, or minimal effort, but equally, we shouldn’t be overly critical when people genuinely try to improve things, but fall short. Pouring derision on such efforts will kills off any chance of improvement, and will be counterproductive.
Nothing of value comes easy. This is a fight that’s been carrying on for a long time, and will carry on long after we’re all gone. Worryingly, over the past two decades, we’ve actually seen erosions of women’s rights, which simply proves there’s no scope for sitting back, thinking the fight is over.
This isn’t like painting a wall. This is more like bailing water out of a leaking boat. The fight will probably never be over, and that means every single one of us will have to continue to challenge sexism on a daily basis. And men, that includes challenging it within ourselves.
Together, we will build a better world.