It’s been more than 100 years since IWD began, the first of which attracted more than one million people to rallies around Europe to campaign for women’s rights.
At the turn of the 20th century most countries didn’t allow women to vote, birth control wasn’t even a talking point and women in the workforce were significantly disadvantaged (if they were allowed to work at all).
Since then, in Australia, we’ve seen a bridging of the base salary gender pay gap, (which now sits at about 15.5%) but considering it’s been 50 years since women were granted the right to be paid the same as men for doing comparable work in a landmark Equal Pay decision, there is still an astonishingly large disparity.
We also have more control over our contraceptive and birth choices and continue to witness more and more pioneering Australian women shatter glass ceilings in their respective fields.
Every time a woman gains a seat on a corporate board, takes a CEO role at a major corporate institution or risks her career to call out inequality, sexism or gender discrimination in the workplace, we see the gap close a bit further.
That said, we don’t all have to strive for the corner office, or open ourselves up to the scrutiny that comes with being a whistle-blower in order to make a difference to the cause.
What we do need to do, however, is take more action than simply sharing our support via social media.
“Taking time on IWD to reflect on the progress we have made in Women's Rights (in society, government and employment) in past 100 years or so is something everyone should do,” advises Jacqueline Graham, president of the Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women.
“The fact that we still have to, shows there is yet more to be done. And we should all do something.”
Ms Graham says social media does have the potential to trigger action and it’s better than nothing but all, but being proactive through initiatives such as female mentorship, campaigning for equality in the workplace and staying informed can make a huge impact to the cause.
“Women can be involved in these areas as employers and as employees, by advocating a gender lens on job design and keeping informed as to the policies, procedures and salary bands that are appropriate for them,” she explains.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mum, self-employed, a CEO, a woman or a man, there are better ways than using social media to make a difference on International Women’s Day.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY:
Donate to a global women’s aid organisation, like UN Women Australia. According to the International Women’s Development Agency, 45 countries don’t have laws specifically criminalising domestic violence and 111 countries do not consider rape by one’s husband to be an explicit crime. One includes
If you’re an employee, ask your employer to conduct a pay audit and pledge to address any wage inequality, as well as encouraging a zero-tolerance culture with regard to sexual harassment and discrimination.
For employers, encourage part-time employees to apply for promotions and consider paid parental leave not just for women, but for men. “Look at whether employees on parental leave are receiving salary increments during their absence,” suggests Ms Graham. “If not, then they will be at a lower level than their cohort on return. The average increase could be factored in; or the increase that would have been accorded to them at their most recent performance review.”
Patronise small businesses which are owned and run by women.
Sponsor and mentor young women in your respective industry.
Petition local, state and federal MPs for better paid parental leave, funding for women’s services and support for marginalised women.
And if you do post, don’t forget to use this year’s official IWD hashtag #eachforequal.