Why I have not blogged about IWD this year. (It isn’t because of Covid19)

Group of different ethnicities people standing for equal rights and justice.

International Women’s Day is a very important milestone in the year.  And this year the executive director of the United Nations Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has said that this is a massive year for gender equality.

On the days around the official date I am reminded of the issues that women face worldwide.  That for many women in the world problems about equality in business are very low on the scale of their worries.  Millions of girls worldwide do not have the equal right to education.  Many women do not have the right to work outside the home.  And violence against women and girls is one of the slowest of the UN’s Millennial goals in terms of progress.  It affects one in three women worldwide.

Violence against women and girls of course is also a problem in the so called first world, in the “WEIRD” nations (Western, Educated, Internet enabled, Rich and Democratic), everywhere in the UK, possibly affecting someone you work with.

When we talk about gender inequality at work, we usually don’t mean violence.  And that is good, but the unrelenting prevalence of violence outside the workplace highlights how much there still is to do for women and girls to feel safe.

According to government statistics in the UK, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse and 1 in 5 sexual assault during her lifetime.

The Crime Survey of England and Wales estimates 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 3.4 million female victims and 631,000 male victims.  An estimated 3.1% of women (510,000) and 0.8% of men (138,000) aged 16-59 experienced sexual assault in the last year.

So the first reason that I am not writing about equality for women in the workplace this IWD is because I think it is important to highlight that we should be thinking beyond the inequalities of the workplace.

The second reason is inclusiveness.

Much of the publicity that is generated at this time of year is focused on what men are still getting wrong at work.  There’s new, and undoubtedly valuable research into what men and women find acceptable at work from King’s College London.  Headlines include the finding that one in ten men think that it is OK to display material of a sexual nature at work.   Hideous.  These headlines will make many good men shudder with the association and indeed feel either guilty on behalf of men they haven’t even met or condemned by their gender.

For my next book I (and my co-authors) have been interviewing lots of them.  They refer frequently to feeling as though there’s a “witch hunt” or that being a straight white man is being part of an endangered species.  (It’s worth pointing out that there isn’t and it isn’t of course.  The victims of the actual witch hunts were those who didn’t fit contemporary gender norms and often were middle aged women who wouldn’t conform).

Whilst some of you might not have much sympathy for those who can be characterised as “male, pale and stale”, or a “diversity disaster zone” (as the awesome Richard Huntingdon puts it), there are many men in the workplace who might look like they’re riding high but in fact are not.

There are many who feel displaced or who don’t fit or don’t approve of patriarchal masculine norms.  The under 25s, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, BAME, GBTQ+, with disabilities, with neurodiversity, with mental health issues.  Feminists of every gender.

The final reason for not blogging on IWD is that there were a multitude of great points of view including this one from Shelly Zalis on the role men can play in driving equality in the workplace.

his is not a time for more divisions, for finger pointing.  It is a time for inclusiveness.

IWD’s theme this year is each for equal.  It should, and must go both ways, indeed every, way.


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