by Judy M McCutcheon
Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist, and activist once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
The Beijing Declaration is regarded as the turning point for the global agenda on gender equality. It is regarded as the most progressive roadmap, thus far for the advancement of women and girls everywhere. As the world pauses to reflect on the “how far we have come movement” in terms of gender equality, I ask that we reflect on our actions and the things we do to advance or stunt this movement. Women are the life force behind human sustainability and the driving force behind the fulfillment of dreams and aspirations. So, for me, the fact that we still need a movement to take us towards gender equality tells a compelling story. As we send greetings for International Women’s Day, let us not do it superficially, but instead, let us reflect on what this progress has meant so far and how we intend to #BreakTheBias going forward.
How many times do we see injustices right in our homes and in our communities and turn a blind eye? Our daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces, and friends are being abused sexually, emotionally, financially, and physically and we keep quiet for fear of shame and ridicule. What message do we send with those actions? When we say that women are too old or too young for certain positions in organisations, we are sending a message of not being good enough. When we refuse women jobs simply on the basis that they are women and might get pregnant, we are sending a message that something is wrong with us. When we treat our boys superior to our girls when we give them a better seat, rather than an equal seat at the table, what is the message being sent? When in the name of culture and tradition, we subject our girls to kitchen and house duties and deny them the right to an education just as our boys, what message are we sending? When in the name of culture and tradition, we rob our girls of their natural desires, what are we telling them? When we misinterpret the Bible and subject our girls to submissiveness and teach them that their sole existence is to be of service to men, what messages are we sending? I want us to pause reflectively and see how our actions or inactions have slowed the progress to #BreakingTheBias.
So, when we ask to #BreakTheBias, what exactly do we mean? What do you understand it to mean, and what does it mean for you? Does it mean building workplaces where women thrive? Does it mean supporting more women and girls in tech, math, and science? Does it mean more support for women entrepreneurs? Does it mean women having the power over their health, trusting that we know what’s right for us? Does it mean forging stronger women empowerment globally? I’m often told that we can’t have the women’s equality conversation without a man being a part of that conversation. My perspectives on that are very different. We need to know what we want and how we want it before we bring men in. I know that we need the collective whole to really advance this movement, but I believe that we need it to be advanced on our terms, and through our lens.
I want to imagine a world where there is gender equality, but I also want to imagine a world where all women are treated fairly. I want to be paid fairly for my work, not necessarily equal, because my work may be of far better quality. I want a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where differences are valued and celebrated. Let us remember who we are always and the power we have to make this world a kinder, gentler, and much better place to live. I want a world where 25 years from now, my daughters are not holding the same placards with the same words written on them, marching for equal rights for women. I want a world where collectively we recognise that women’s rights are human rights. I want a world where the bias has been broken. Let us raise a generation of men who understand that we are all humans entitled to the same inalienable rights.
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Judy McCutcheon is the CEO of Go Blue Consulting and a certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach.