By Aubane Lemaire
Look around you. There is a never-ending gender pay gap at work, men get all the praise and society is still unable to accept the idea that women can do “manly jobs”. There are countless events where female speakers take the stage and whine about how hard it is for them to live in a man’s world. But women themselves play a part in creating this feeling of inferiority and inequality.
This month, both in the UK and the US, there will be the Women of the World Festival; Speak Up Women; conferences organised by Women in Aviation International or even Women in Science. Ladies, it is time to accept this: there are just too many of these events!
They are usually organised by women, for women, with women. Some of them are feminists, and feminism by definition is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. Feminism then wants equality between men and women, and this is not happening.
This ideal parity is also turning into hypocrisy. There is an International Men’s Day, but nobody seems to hear or care about it, whereas anyone who is not enthusiastic about International Women’s Day is criticised for not supporting gender equality
By organising too many women’s events, these ladies are creating a breach by separating both genders instead of putting them together on a single day to discuss whatever topic they want.
This ideal parity is also turning into hypocrisy. There is an International Men’s Day, but nobody seems to hear or care about it, whereas anyone who is not enthusiastic about International Women’s Day is criticised for not supporting gender equality. If you want to accomplish this parity, involve men in your battles, think about what they could bring to you, and consider them your equals as well. If the point is giving a voice to both men and women, then why not have an event called Speak Up or People of the World Festival? That’s all that’s needed.
We cannot pretend we are living in the best of worlds or that women will overcome all their problems and beat men at everything. We might never be entirely equal simply because we are different and there are always things that one might do better than the other. But if you are a really talented person, maybe the best scientist or lawyer of your generation, then there is no reason why you should be praised only by women in a special women-only event.
When your title starts with “Women in…”, you can be pretty sure no man will turn up. Chief executive of Lady Geek, Belinda Parmar had this experience. She described the day when men left the room when she started her speech. She knew they deserted the place because her event had been perceived as being “women-only”. For her, this had “managed to alienate the very people we need to be speaking to”.
We cannot pretend we are living in the best of worlds or that women will overcome all their problems and beat men at everything. We might never be entirely equal simply because we are different and there are always things that one might do better than the other
So stop creating conferences and meetings only for women. Think bigger. After all, why do we need so many of them anyway? Maybe men intimidate women, who are scared of expressing their – probably incredible – ideas to the so-called stronger sex, scared that men might judge the idea or even them as women for having it. There should be no reason for us to feel this way, and it is not by segregating ourselves that we will achieve equality.
Men should know what women are doing well, that they may be their main competitors… or maybe their future associates. It is not about being rivals and working in two different worlds, especially when it comes to important fields like scientific research, technological progress or finance, it is all about having great work relationships and improving things together.
That is not to say that all of the women’s events are unnecessary. We do need some like those organised as part of the Women’s and Girls’ Education programme by the UNESCO to help women get their right to education, especially in Third World countries. Some ladies there are still in very bad situations.
A UNESCO report shows that two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female. Child marriage is also an issue with 700 million girls or young women already suffering from its consequences according to Girls Not Brides; as is genital mutilation with 200 millions girls and women having had to go through it according to the World Health Organisation. In some cultures and societies, women are still inferior to men and have bigger problems to worry about than the gender pay gap. These issues unfortunately exist because they still live in what are considered “male dominated societies”.
If men, here or there, start changing their behaviour and opinion about women it can make a real difference. So rather than staying in your comfort zone with your female friends at dozens of meetings during the year, mix with your male counterparts, combat inequalities with them, let them know what you are capable of. Because if they feel accepted by women, they might join the fight for equality and help us even more.
So rather than staying in your comfort zone with your female friends at dozens of meetings during the year, mix with your male counterparts, combat inequalities with them, let them know what you are capable of
In the end, what all women in the world need is having leaders – whether they are President, Prime Minister, King or Queen – who actually have some nerve to implement the laws that they or their predecessors passed. It is great to have laws praising gender equality, but it is useless if they are there just to make everyone happy and only give us the impression that we are equal. We are not.
But as it might take a long time to solve the problems in our society, ladies, we should start acting now. Stop having so many women-only events when we need men to help us solve the problems. We do not need a particular day to speak up, so raise your voice to what matters to you and engage men in what you are fighting for.