International Womens' Day - Women in the workplace - March 2019
Leading up to this long weekend we celebrated International Womens' Day, so it is timely to think about the history of this day and the progress we have made.
Women first began to use this day to highlight their call for action on their right to vote.
The first Australian rally for IWD took place in the Sydney domain on 25th March, 1928 and called for equal pay for equal work, together with a number of other conditions which were aimed at fairer conditions for women factory workers.
On the 50th anniversary of IWD oin 1960 in Copenhagen, a declaration for the support for political, economic and social rights of women was passed.
During International Womens' Year in 1975, the United Nations officially recognized IWD and it was taken up by many governments who had not previously known of its existence. That year saw an immense number of special activities and events celebrating women and their achievements. Many books on women and their changing roles in society were published during this time and there was a proliferation of academic courses focusing on womens' studies. It was an exciting time of change for women. I remember this period very well as it was the time when I returned to study as a mature student and felt excited and energized by the focus on women and education.
As we look at womens' position in Australian society today, we see many changes in the number of women in the workforce, more women entering previously male dominated occupations and the emergnce of women in leadership positions - including the election of our first female Prime Minister a few years ago.
At the same time, we also see women grappling with important decisions about whether to pursue a career or to start a family. The number of women in their thirties now who have spent years studying and establishing themselves in a job find themselves worrying about whether they have left it too late to hava a family and contemplating the need for IVF treatment. Despite all of the advances for women and the greater number of choices we have now, it seems it is difficult to have everything we want in life and inevitably we have to choose between sometimes conflicting options. If we decide to have a family then maybe we will have to put our career on hold for a while and hope we will not be too disadvantaged when we return to work later.
When we think about women in other parts of the world, we can see that we are indeed lucky to have the choices we do. Women in Africa and other third world countries are struggling to survive natural disasters, poverty, violence and the impact of war on their communities. It is hard for us to imagine what daily life must be like for these women.
In the last few weeks, the plight of women working in the clothing industry in disadvantaged countries who make clothes for well known companies for incredibly low wages has been highlighted in the media and there have been calls for consumers to demand that companies put a stop to the exploitation of poor women in this way.
Despite the advances made by women in the work force, women are still struggling to achieve equal pay for equal work and we hear far too many stories of women being bullied or sexually harrassed in their jobs. Women still struggle to compete with men for senior positions and we have seen only in recent weeks the difficulties encountered by women in politics who are not supported by their male colleagues when i comes to advancement in key roles of influence. Women are still on a journey towards equality and equal opportunity and recognition of their considerable achievements and contributions to society.
This International Womens' Day is an opportunity for you to think about your own achievements. Think about your personal characteristics, the things you have had to overcome in your life and the times you were able to draw on your strengths to help you move through a diffcult experience or rise to a challenge. Celebrate your achievements and the important relationships in your life which have helped you to bcome the person you are now. You may want to consider some of the women who have inspired you - whether they be women in history or current figures you admire or significant women who have been family members or friends who have had an impact on you and your life.
Happy International Womens" Day to you all.