If you'd like to get a free taster of my book then here's the introduction. The book is all about how women can empower women and includes a toolkit of practical actions we can take to create a gender equal world.
Each Other: Introduction
A Bold Assertion
It was the day I realised why.
Why there is not a single country in the world where women have full equality with men. Not one. Why more girls than boys experience extreme hunger across the world. Why we more often than not get paid less than men for the same (yes, the very same) work. Why the United Nations reports that women worldwide are more at risk of rape and domestic violence than of cancer or car accidents. Why millions of girls across the globe are actively denied an education. Why we as women must do something significant for the gender to which we belong.
It was a regular day at the office except that International Women’s Day was almost upon us. I scrolled through lots of teaser tweets about special events which were planned to mark the day in the United Kingdom and discovered that there was a national call to highlight the impact that women have in the workplace. This was by making our absence felt through a mini strike at lunchtime. The idea was not to disrupt or to cause workplace chaos, but to say, “Hey, without us these jobs wouldn’t get done. We’re capable and we want fair recognition for that.”
Marking the global day of action with more than a pink frosted cake or high fives with my colleagues was very compelling so I set about talking to my female co- workers about how we might do this within our organisation. It was important to me that my colleagues were fully engaged in any activity we decided to do. So I set about talking to women, some on a one to basis and some in small groups. We happily chatted about the growing momentum for International Women’s Day and our delight at how many women were joining in with the #westrike event to make a stand across the United Kingdom for each other. I then asked for ideas on what we would like to do to mark the day in the office and show solidarity with each other.
The moment I asked the question was like an ideas high five that isn’t returned. There was the glorious tension as my open palm for ideas hung in the air, waiting for a reciprocal high five, and then the awkward lowering of my hand when I realised there would be no high fives, or ideas, for International Women’s Day solidarity. Not on that day, anyway.
My females colleagues were happy to chat about gender equality and the need for our empowerment. When it came to taking personal action, to standing up and saying, “I will do this for myself and we will do this for each other," only two women out of a group of about sixty stepped up. When it came to instigating real change I was faced with the passive conviction of women bystanders.
Women who said:
- “I believe in your right to do something but it’s not for me”
- “I’m not a feminist so I’d rather not” “But women are equal now”
- “I believe in women’s rights but I’m not in to politics”
- “What if we get in trouble? I’m not sure it’s worth it”
- “It won’t achieve anything”
- “If you set something up I’ll join you but I haven’t got time to plan”
- “Do you want me to strike so that you can sack me?”
- “We could just do a team tweet couldn’t we. Do we need to do any more?”
This was the moment I realised why. Taking an active part in the thought leadership of empowerment was not something which most of the women I spoke to that day wanted to do. In fact many were strongly against it stating that feminism was not something they were interested in. The realisation saddened me, but it also showed me how much potential there is for positive change.
And so, I would like to make a bold assertion. That a future of global gender equality, where women are fully equal with men in every single country in the world, depends very much on how women actively stand with each other, fight for each other, encourage each other and empower each other.
It is true that we undoubtedly also need men to consistently be part of the empowerment story and there are many men who have been, and continue to be, catalysts for feminism. Men though, have occupied gender power and not parity for centuries.
Male feminism has not been enough to enable true gender equality within any country across the globe. Men are undoubtedly part of the solution, but throughout history they have also been a very big part of the problem.
I am not asserting that the reason the world is so gender unequal is because of women. Absolutely not. But I am asserting that there is so much more that women can do to further the cause of equality. It is not because of women that so few are on the boards of FTSE 100 (Financial Times Stock Exchange) companies in the UK. It is not because of women that in Russia it is illegal for females to get a job steering a ship. Or that in Madagascar women are banned from working at night, and in Niger that married women can’t open a bank account without the permission of their husband.
It is because since the beginning of time, with relatively few social and political exceptions, men have secured and then maintained power for the privilege of their own gender. It is now time for us as women to highlight that privilege, at all levels, and in all societies, in order to actively orbit to a gender equal world. Women empowering women is the change we need to achieve global gender equality.
The world needs concerted change on so many levels to achieve this. Sustainable and significant impact has to begin with the dis-empowered taking back power. After all, power by its very nature is not something which can be given but which must be taken to fully appreciate its significance. Therefore, this book explores how women can empower each other as a catalyst for female and male equality.