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International Women’s Day

OMG! It’s March 8th!

You do know what this means, right? No, it’s not because it’s Freddie Prinze Jr’s birthday. Nope, not even that it’s James Van Der Beek’s birthday, either (shout out to my Dawson’s Creek fans, though).

Obsolete 90’s male celebrities aside, March 8th is the official date of International Women’s Day. IWD is a globally recognised date that addresses gender inequality whilst also celebrating women the world over.

What is International Women’s Day?

There are parts of communities all over the world who insist that gender inequality doesn’t exist. IWD helps to increase awareness of the biting truth that, in fact, there are still pressing societal issues that need to be addressed.

Consider this:

The World Economic Forum has predicted that the gender pay gap won’t close until 2186

Only 50% of working age women are represented in the global workforce, compared to 76% of men

The current gender pay gap in Australia for full time work is 17.3%

That is, women earn 17.3% less than men, a number that has hovered between 15-19% for the past two decades. That’s twenty years with little to no improvement regarding the gender pay gap. In fact, 2017 has only seen this figure further deteriorate.

No matter which way you slice it, women are paid less than men. Thus, IWD is a necessary, positive, global gathering of those in support of gender equality. It is a culmination of minds who want to change this unequal status quo, in order to formulate a better society.

“Through meaningful celebration and targeted bold action, we can all be responsive and responsible leaders in creating a more gender inclusive world.” - IWD, 2017.

Celebrated by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, the first ever IWD was held on March 19, 1911. Women all over Europe demanded that they be given the right to vote, the right to hold public office and that they should be protected against employment sex discrimination.

The UN’s theme for this year’s IWD is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030. It is fitting then, that the IWD motto of 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. For if we are to create a gender equal planet by 2030, we will certainly have to take some bold steps in the right direction.

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Image source: https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/Gender_Pay_Gap_Factsheet.pdf

Gender parity across industries

Naturally, gender equality is a large and complex issue that morphs and manipulates as you move across the globe and across populations. To begin with, there are the more systemic issues: the ability to vote, basic human rights, the gender pay gap, violence against women, and abortion, just to name a few. It’s important to emphasise that these issues also intersect with race, class and sexuality, creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination and disadvantage.

For instance, within certain areas, particular gender inequality problems are more prominent than in others. In Africa, there are more cultural norms that hinder a woman’s advancement in society than in, say, Denmark. These inhibiting cultural norms range from fewer girls being allowed to go to school right up to dangerous traditional practices that severely harm women’s health. Thus, it’s necessary to have a holistic appreciation of the issues at large, before we begin to dissect what is at play on a local scale.

If we zero in, a divide is also present within the subpopulations of singular issues. Amongst other areas, IWD focuses on the gender pay gap, which can vary greatly from industry to industry. In Australia, the lowest pay gap is in the Public Administration and Safety industry (7.7%), whilst the highest is the Financial and Insurance Services industry (30%). Other industries who have a notoriously large gender pay gap are STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics), Construction, Healthcare, Real Estate and I.T.

However, it must be noted, that all industries still have a gender pay gap.

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Image source: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/international-womens-day

Gender parity in digital

Although there are many bold and beautiful women dominating the digital sphere, as with all industries, equal remuneration is still a major problem. A new AIMIA survey reports that, “Across all digital professionals, the median salary for males is $101,000, while the median salary for females is only $85,000.” Although women matched men in salaries at an executive level, there were pay discrepancies at all subordinate employment levels. In roles such as sales, eCommerce, creative and client services, women earned on average $25,000 less than men. Regrettably, female sales workers earned a whopping $45,000 less than men. 

However, in some digital organisations, such as here at Digital Next, there are contractual clauses and workplace processes to prevent inequality within the workplace – be that behavioural, financial or otherwise. An equal workplace is certainly the most fruitful. Unfortunately, this notion has not yet been adopted widely enough.

This inequality doesn’t just affect the atmosphere of the office, either. Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Libby Lyons, states that the gender pay gap was a “powerful symbol of lost ­potential for individuals, businesses and the economy.”

 “Understanding the factors that lead to women being consistently undervalued in the workforce is critical to creating change,’’ she said.

 Chief executive of the Diversity Council of Australia, Lisa Annese, understands the need to increase our efforts to close the gender pay gap.

 “And while organisations can do a lot to close the gap in their ­individual workplaces, there are structural inequities between ­industries and in the wider economy which must also be ­addressed,” she said.

What you can do

With such hard, negative facts on the table, it can be easy to feel despondent as to how we should address this deep, dark issue. However, all is not lost. With the help of supportive employers and conscious workplaces, there is significant opportunity for organisations – digital and otherwise – to nurture female talent. In turn, this will develop more equal workplaces and foster a more diverse future for our economy. 

The change starts with you, so use this International Women’s Day as an important opportunity to:

Celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women, and

Declare bold actions you’ll take as an individual or organization to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world.

Above all, today is to appreciate the women in our life and to further their plight as equal members of our society. Because without women, none of us would exist, would we? Happy IWD, everyone!

 

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