Why it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was #Balance for Better, a call for a gender balanced world where everyone plays a role in forging gender parity.

Although we have seen great improvements towards gender equality, there is still a long way to go, with women still not being paid the same as male employees, not having equal numbers of women and men in business or politics and with women’s education, health and violence against them being worse than men.

Women still face a number of biases, especially when it comes to the workforce. As I read the International Women’s Day Bias Reference Sheet, two of the gender bias categories stood out to me.

The first was performance bias which stated that employers are more likely to underestimate women’s performance and overestimate men’s performance, often meaning that women must accomplish more to prove that they are as competent as their fellow male employees.  Shockingly in one study, they found that replacing a women’s name with a man’s name on a resume improved the odds of getting hired by more than 60%.

The second was maternal bias which stated that employers assume that mothers are less committed to their careers, are less competent and that employers are more likely to penalise them for small mistakes or oversights. Research shows that maternal bias is the strongest type of gender bias. When hiring employers know that a woman has children, she is 79% less likely to be hired and if they are hired, they are paid $11,000 (on average) less in their salary.

One of the International Women’s Day promotional videos by Four Nine showcased a group of people’s reactions to sexist google definitions, a great example of how a word can change meaning according to which gender it is applied to. In the video, it shows the definition for ‘hysterical’ where one-man states “If somebody said to me, ‘that guy is hysterical,’ I’d go, he sounds like a good laugh. If someone came up to me and goes, ‘that woman is hysterical’, I’d say she needs to sit down and have a cup of tea.”  This was a great way to make people think about gender equality and illustrated how something as simple as language can expose our own subconscious gender biases and how we should challenge these stereotypes so we can move closer to gender equality.

International Women’s Day is not only a day to draw attention to the gender biases that women face every day, it is also a day to celebrate the strength and achievements of women. This year Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services celebrated with over 200 women at an International Women’s Day Event at St Mary’s Memorial Hall. The room was filled with women of all ages, cultures and backgrounds who came together to celebrate women, acknowledging how far women have come and recognising the changes that still need to happen before we have a gender balanced world. There was a variety of performances, a self-defence demonstration as well as a number of guest speakers who left the audience feeling inspired.

The highlight of this event was from our very own Aboriginal dance group – Walan Mahlee. The girls performed traditional Aboriginal dances at the event and also designed, researched and delivered a beautiful artwork that celebrated Aboriginal women, past and present while showing the audience their own strengths as our future leaders. The girls displayed great courage as they presented their artwork to the room and revealed the amazing things they aim to achieve as they flourish into young women. NCNS Community Development Worker, Nada Mohammed expressed that, “it was an incredible privilege to support the girls in this project and I can’t wait to see what happens in the future.”

Although the day is over, it does not mean that we stop working towards gender equality. Each day women and men need to work together to challenge stereotypes, advocate for themselves and others and celebrate each other’s strengths so that we can build a gender balanced future where our children have equal opportunities to achieve and succeed, whether they are boy or a girl.

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