Women’s day should not be celebrated – it should be observed.
While the first Women’s day was observed in 1909 in New York, each country has observed Women’s Day on different days. It was not until 1975, that the United Nations finally observed March 8 as International Women’s Day. While we have made big strides towards the ideal of equal rights for women (which inspired this movement) – we are still far away from celebrating the day when we can say, the goal has been achieved.
Look at the statistics for gender equality in India from a UN report:
- Women in India represent 26 percent of the labour force, in 2018, down from 36.7 percent in 2008. More than half of the work done by women in India is unpaid, and almost all of it is informal and unprotected.
- Women are not well represented in most sectors, including business leaders. Though they comprise almost 33 percent of agricultural labour, they control only 10.3% percent of land in India.
- Women are also shut out of the formal financial system. Nearly half of India’s women do not have a bank or savings accounts for their own use, and 60 percent of women have no valuable assets to their name.
- At 18 percent, India has a lower share of women’s contribution to the GDP than the global average of 37 percent.
- Women face great physical insecurity. The rate of crimes against women in India has grown by almost 44% percent between 2011 – 2015 in India, with he current rate going even higher. In Delhi, the capital city, 92 percent of women reported having experienced sexual or physical violence in public spaces.
Rather than being a day where these scary statistics are shared, mulled over and some action taken to rectify them – it has become a day about capitalising on an opportunity to sell women stuff in pink, cute selfies all over the internet, and a collective tick mark on having done something for women until the next women’s day. So rather than mulling over what you should be doing this women’s day – here are a few things you should not be doing:
Stay Clear Of The Clichés
We see a surfeit of a few things every women’s day. Here are a few:
- The colour Pink
- Embroidery. Beading.
- Cooking in different formats
- Kitty parties – called by different names!
Stay clear Of The Posturing
- Roses on the desks of women employees
- Selfies, group pics of all the women in your workplace
- Posting pics of you helping a woman (any woman – your mom, your sis or your colleague) on this one day with a smart sounding hashtag for social media
- Being overly “sweet” to women and calling them by such terms in official settings
- Asking “do you need help?” – far too frequently
- Proffering far too much advice – especially when it is unasked for.
- Intruding into their personal space, in the guise of being “helpful”
None of this does anything to change the stereotypical thinking about women. It does nothing to change the gender equality equation.
If you truly want to do something for women’s day – here are a few ideas:
Start By Thinking Of It Beyond “Women’s Day”
It has to be about daily behaviours. And the best thing is – you don’t have to do “something special”. Treat women exactly the way you would treat male colleagues. That is the highest form of respect.
Create A Safe Space
Treating female colleagues like you would treat male colleagues doesn’t mean being unmindful of your behaviour. The keyword is
Watch Your Language
Avoid talk that is sexist. And call it out if any of your other male colleagues indulge in it too. Stop shaming anyone for the dress or make-up they choose to wear.
Involve Men in Women’s Day
Running a workshop session even on women’s day – only for women, ignores the fact that they mostly work in a male dominated workspace. Any engagement that you do must involve men, not just in the activity but also in the deeper conversations about how we can create a more gender-neutral work space.
Make Management Roles Gender Diverse
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is not enough to celebrate Women’s day year after year, without working to increase the percentage of women in senior roles. Your audio should match your video – else it will be eventually perceived as a hogwash.
So, how will you observe Women’s day this year?