Have we really made progress for women? #BreakTheBias
My mum passed away at the start of this year. On days like today, when I feel like we’ve made no progress at all, it helps to remember her journey.
She was born in 1947, and grew up when women generally had four occupations to choose from – secretary, teacher, nurse or housewife. She was a secretary after she completed school, and loved it, but gave it up at 24 to be a mum and housewife for me.
20 years later when she tried to re-enter the workforce she struggled. Times had changed, computers were now a requirement for secretaries (she hated them!) and unemployment was nearly 20%.
One thing mum was passionate about was that my sister and I would break the cycle of women in our family and have careers to be proud of. She was determined we would go to a private girls’ school – she believed this would set us up for success. She was right, we both leveraged our schooling to go onto university and build careers that filled her with pride. I completed my masters, qualified as a psychologist and had a number of roles that amazed her and led to running Businessary.
My sister is eight years younger than me – she studied marketing, and then in the last 10 years completed her PhD in marketing. Mum passed away weeks before she received her final dissertation – she won’t be here to celebrate the graduation but I know she’ll be watching somewhere proud as punch.
What does this have to do with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Break the Bias’? Maybe nothing. Maybe it’s just a personal story but it’s the best I can think of as any possible sign of improvement right now.
The last few years I’ve been passionate and outspoken about the need for equality. To walk into a boardroom and be taken seriously based on my credentials and not gender.
Middle aged, predominantly white males are seen everywhere, making decisions about everything from wars to local business budgets. I’m getting tired of myself saying the same things.
It’s hard to maintain the fight, but I’m writing this blog, at the eleventh hour, even though I really don’t want to because I know I need to keep advocating (even though I’m feeling so OVER IT.)
Why is it still so hard for a male dominated world to consider engaging or respecting women – or any diversity for that matter?
My mum would say the world is different for women now, my grandma certainly would, too. It’s not enough, yet. How can we ensure my four year old son grows up to a vastly different world than the one we live in now?!
I hope you’re all not fighting the same exhausted and exasperated feeling that our progress has been not just stalled but derailed.
COVID certainly did us no favours, there are plenty of statistics and articles telling us what we already knew, that women bore the brunt of the pandemic, sending us spiralling backwards physically, mentally and economically. The headlines of harassment, inequality and abuse continue at every level of government and society. It’s unacceptable.
So we can’t give up. I can’t give up. The same way my mother didn’t give up, and her mother before that.
We owe it to the women who’ve pioneered, agitated, disrupted and blazed a trail for us – both previous generations and those of today like Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins – to keep going.
My role and priority as a mother of a son is to communicate with him, and share with him the realities that I and other women have faced, and help him to see the role he can play in changing the future, one person at a time.
And I’ll task you with the same – please find just one thing (even small!) that you can do to help break the bias so that we leave the world a better place than we found it – for everyone.