Important detail we’re missing today
I USED to look forward to International Women's Day (IWD). I'd eagerly register for events featuring panels of highly successful women. When the day arrived, I'd fill my social feeds with quotes from these women as they shared their stories and insights.
But ask me today how I feel about the day touted as "a focal point in the movement for women's rights"?
Well, my response will be … meh.
I'm afraid I have lost my IWD mojo.
For a while, I wasn't sure why the IWD invitations in my inbox felt so lacklustre. My brain cited "too busy" or "too expensive" as the reasons to delete them.
And while the sincerity and cost of some events play a role in dulling my enthusiasm, last year I had a moment when the clouds parted, enabling me to see what's turning me off.
It happened when I walked into a busy office and declared "happy International Women's Day!". The men looked up from their screens to offer me a smile. The women, however, rolled their seats into a huddle and started to do something with their phones that made me want to tear them from their hands and scream "NOOOO!"
Their way to acknowledge IWD was to share photos of their children; it was a collective pat on the back for the way they manage to hold down jobs while being mums at the same time.
It was then I realised that, despite good intentions, some of us are doing IWD the wrong way. To be clear, I'm not questioning the importance of the day, but rather the way it is used to place women on pedestals because they are surviving the hideous juggle of balancing motherhood and a successful professional career.
This is not what IWD should be about.
Workplace gender equality initiatives like quotas, targets and mentoring, have long been recognised and debated on the day … and rightfully so.
According to the latest Workplace Gender Equality Agency's scorecard for Australia, more employers are taking steps to address areas such as succession planning, retention and promotions.
As a result, the pipeline of women into management positions has strengthened.
But look further into the data and you find key statistics that remain depressingly static, notably the persistent lack of women further up the corporate ladder, as CEOs, chairs and directors.
Why? Well, have an honest conversation with some of the women in that strengthening pipeline and I'll wager they will tell you that the further they progress, the more nervous they become about their ability to balance family life with their work life.
For me, this is where we should be directing some of our IWD conversations. Because when it comes to female participation in the workplace, businesses are striding into the future while other areas of our lives are stuck firmly in the past.
Like, why is it mostly women who volunteer at schools? That jobs such as tuck shop, excursions and fundraisers are seen as the domain of women.
Why is it that men are not using the paternity leave offered by their employees? Countless studies show that despite the availability of leave that encourages men to balance their professional lives with their family lives, they are not being embraced.
And why do men who take this leave, or seek flexibility, feel they are being judged? A male friend told me only last week that he feels he has lost credibility and authority at work after moving to part-time hours to help care for his newborn.
Why is it that today, in 2019, I overheard a father at a school function describe the emails and notices that come from his children's school as "women's work"?
And on the topic of so-called "women's work", why is it that data consistently shows that women (including those holding down full-time jobs) are still doing more work in the home than men?
These biases - conscious or subconscious - may seem like small fry to some. And maybe when looked at alongside the wider context of some of the issues facing women around the world today, they are.
But if we are genuinely serious about empowering more women into the workplace, to really have a red-hot-go at getting them through that pipeline and further up the corporate ladder, these are the important grassroots issues we need to include in our discussions this International Women's Day.
And when we do, perhaps we could make a real impact.
Then those women we spotlight for somehow managing to "have it all", won't be such rare and glorified creatures.
Lisa Lintern is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation: @lisa_lintern