On March 8, every year for over 100 years, we celebrate women around the world. Officially what I have read and learned, it is a day that focuses on the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. That’s a bit vague, but okay. I also know that this day is widely marketed as one that focuses on accelerating gender parity. I will admit that I am not much of an activist and am not drawn to women’s marches or protests. For me, International Women’s Day is a day for reflection and discussion. It’s a day that puts women at centre stage to state our case to the world. As this annual celebration comes to a close, it makes me think, is what we want really gender parity or is it more about recognition?
If one looks at the definition of gender parity, this is it: a numerical concept related to gender equality. In the context of gender equality, gender parity refers to the equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life, whether private or public.
But is that realistic? Gender parity is about numbers – equal numbers, across all parts of life, all around the world. While in theory it may be something nice for our society to aspire to this, I think it is simply idealistic and a fairy-tale. It is not going to happen. And quite frankly, I don’t think it has to happen.
I would love to celebrate women every day. We are great. And we are different from men in so many ways. Our bodies are physically different. We think differently and definitely behave differently. We internalize our experiences in such different ways. And that’s okay.
I don’t think either men or women are better than the other. Each gender contributes to the world, but I don’t think they do so in the same way. Numerically, in the workforce, yes, they should be equal. No doubt. If a 35-year-old woman with ten years’ experience puts in an 8-hour day as an accountant she should be compensated the same way her male colleague, also a 35-year-old-accountant with ten years’ experience, is paid.
I think where I disagree with many people is the notion of equal contribution of women and men in every dimension of life, whether private or public. Men and women do not have to be equal in every dimension of our lives. Because of the vast differences between men and women that I stated above, I believe that it is not possible to be equal at everything.
A wise friend of mine (yes, of course a woman) discussed this very issue with me today. We talked about how men and women see themselves in the world. When you get to a certain age, how does a man versus a woman view their accomplishments and contributions to society?
For the most part, the men I know measure success on career advancements and their contributions to their profession. Losing a job, not getting a promotion or failure in a business venture means he is not successful.
The women in my inner and even outer circle measure success very differently. No doubt, my female friends and family are ambitious and want to achieve great things in their careers. But for most of them, life is about more than that. Whether it be running a household or supporting a close group of friends, women see the big picture. If one part of their life has stalled, they pick up the pace somewhere else. Women balance a career and all that life throws at them.
And women do it well. On International Women’s Day, heck every day, we want to be recognized for being different from men. I’m not saying we are always better or that we deserve more. In some parts of life, for sure, we demand equality. But we also demand the recognition of being different and the respect we deserve for who we are.
So, happy International Women’s Day to all my female friends and family. May you go from strength to strength, and be recognized for that strength. Every day.