Every year, on 8th March, we recognise International Women’s Day. I’m writing this three days later, on Mother’s Day, having absorbed the stories of myriad celebrations of successes, condemnations of oppression, encouragement of others, as well as reminders not to be complacent.
In recent months and years, the global gaze has fallen more widely upon the inequalities and abuses suffered by women in many forms, across a range of sectors. And this raising of awareness and calling out of unacceptable practices is a positive move. But not just for women.
It’s better for everyone.
Sadly, it seems there are some who, for some reason, just plain don’t like women. Maybe they inherited their objectionable values, which were then reinforced and perpetuated by the media and like-minded souls in the wider society. Maybe they feel threatened?
Clearly, as a woman, if you’re paid equitably, treated fairly and not denied opportunities, you’re going to be happier. Stands to reason.
As a man, I have many amazing women in my life, including my mother, my wife, my friends and colleagues. Why wouldn’t I want them all to be treated as well as possible?
I can’t help thinking that recent public conversations about sexual assault come down to equality too. In most cases it’s essentially an abuse of power at play. For all of human history, men have held the balance of power and much of the difficulty of bringing about parity is that it can be hard to let go of an advantage you have, earned or gifted. It takes strength and sacrifice to let go of some of what you have so that others can be better off. Where there is an imbalance of power, there will always be some who exploit it.
Mother’s Day brings with it outpourings of love and adulation for mothers everywhere and deservedly so. And this would suggest to me that the vast majority have a least one woman in the world who means a great deal to them. You’d be forgiven for thinking this unadulterated appreciation of women everywhere would mean there wouldn’t be men making vile comments about women on social media, but sadly not. An awful hypocrisy.
But here is the point. Equality and diversity makes everyone better off. Not only is it morally right that we treat everyone well (and we should all want to anyway), but it makes sense practically too. More diverse leadership and inclusive practices in businesses make for more successful organisations. One report indicated an 80% improvement in performance where diversity and inclusion were high, and many others show similar positive links. That’s a big gain for simply exhibiting fairness.
So men – appreciate your mothers, but also appreciate and respect all women. Today and every day. Treat your wives and daughters, your female friends and colleagues, as you well as you would anyone else. Those old-fashioned, misogynistic ideas may each seem small in isolation, but they all add up. Some things to try…
- Speak up where derogatory language is used – whether it’s swearing or just ‘banter’, it all chips away at equality and individual women’s esteem.
- Take time to really listen and understand what women have to say – don’t assume you know what others want or are thinking.
- Be less judgemental – is your view affected by someone’s gender? Take time to think.
- Don’t belittle problems women face – as a man you cannot know what it is like to see the relentless sexism encountered every day, through female eyes.
This is a very important issue, but these ideas aren’t rocket science. Be thoughtful and fair in your actions and you can help tip the balance back a little in favour of women everywhere. And remember, the fight for women’s equality is one for us all, as a more equal world would improve all our lives.