Today is International Women's Day (IWD). It is a day to celebrate the cultural, economic and political achievements of women. Also, and perhaps more importantly, it is a day to call for action: to support gender parity. I like that the IWD campaign chose the word "parity", it means "a state of being equal, especially in terms of status or pay".
Women have been gathering since 1911. You can learn more about the movement's history and its roots in campaigns for women's right to vote and work.
This year IWD is focusing on select initiatives all fueled by these words:
A challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change.
- celebrate women's achievements
- raise awareness about women's equality
- lobby for accelerated gender parity
- fundraise for female-focused charities
Bias implies that an opinion, or favor leans one way more than another. Or more specifically: a patriarchal society has historically emphasized male experiences and perspectives and therefore the culture 'favors' men over women (a blunt, but apt example: unequal pay between men and women).
Then there is implicit bias: certain qualities and stereotypes that we attribute to a certain person or group of people (women are emotional and fragile, while men are composed and strong).
The truth is, each one of us brings bias and stereotyping to the table when it comes to gender issues. Many of these stereotypes and biases are embedded in images, movies, advertising and products that we consume daily. All of us have been raised in a world that does not treat women the same as men.
So today, support IWD and also check own biases. You make a difference.
1. practice counteracting stereotypes
This may sound crazy, but the first step to combatting your own implicit bias might be to research what are gender biases? These stereotypes may be so deep in your brain and heart that you aren't even aware of them.
Once you know what gender stereotypes are, you can better identify them in the world around you, and in your life.
Then find people, companies, and art that defy these stereotypes. Start following an instagram account, watch a film, or reach out to someone in your life. Consume ideas, images, sounds and conversations that support gender parity. And watch how your perceptions change.
2. watch your language
How do you speak to men? How do you speak to women? How do you speak to gender neutral persons?
Our language is full of biases, stereotypes, and impressions. Research has been done that reveals gender-bias in job ad language. Job openings that are looking for men have words like "assertive, decisive and independent", while jobs for women include language such as, "communal, loyal, responsive, enthusiastic".
Language implies a way of thinking. Women have a difficult time achieving leadership roles in companies because they are expected to be collaborative, rather than independently motivated (and when women do try to rise to the top they are viewed as negatively aggressive).
What you say is a reflection of the world. So watch your words.
3. say something
There is so much work to be done within ourselves, but speaking up is a big part of fighting for gender parity.
Now that you've become a pro at recognizing gender bias in yourself and the world around you, speak up and ask a question when you see bias in another person.
This is often uncomfortable, and you may not change someones' mind, but awareness begins when an issue is pointed out. Don't let a gender-biased joke slide by, hold your boss accountable to equal pay efforts, point out to your mother that you don't need a man change the AC filter in your home; or tell your family that you're not giving up on your career, you want to be the stay at home dad for your family.
4. support the people doing the WORK
Of course there is only so much one person can do. But you can do so much more by supporting organizations and efforts dedicated to uplifting women. IWD features charities that are enacting this mission, every day.
5. celebrate the women in your life
International Women's Day is not just about fighting for gender parity, it is also about celebrating women and their incredible achievements. Maybe this means patting yourself on the back, or letting women in your life know that their work is amazing work. Whatever it is, celebrate!
Check out Jenni Earle instagram for the #choosetochallenge initiative!