As the sun rises on March 8th, the world awakens to a new day filled with hope, strong resolve, and celebration. From bustling cities to rural villages, millions of people gather to honor the remarkable achievements of women and their unyielding fight for equality. In the air, the colors of purple, green, and white dance together, symbolizing justice, hope, and purity.
On every corner, a chorus of voices echoes with the same message: “We choose to challenge the status quo, break down barriers, and build a brighter future for all’’. And with each step forward, the world is reminded of the resilience, strength, and beauty of women, who have overcome countless obstacles and continue to lead toward a more just and equitable society.
Let’s take a quick recap of this incredible journey that began as a labor movement.
The History (Her Story ) of Women’s Rights
Fifteen thousand women marched through the city of New York in 1908 demanding better pay, shorter working hours, and the right to vote. In 1909 the socialist party of America declared the first national women’s day. In Copenhagen, the following year the idea of an International Women’s Day was tabled at a conference. In 1911 four countries – Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland celebrated women’s day. Women in Russia called for a strike in 1917, asking for “bread and peace”.
It was the 23rd of February in the Julian calendar and the 8th of March in the gregorian calendar. Following the gregorian calendar, the United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day on the 8th of March in 1977 and decided to celebrate it with a theme. The day was meant to create awareness about women’s issues and the challenges they face. The first theme of International Women’s Day was “Celebrating the past and planning for the future”.
Since then, celebrating International Women’s Day on 8th March has become a global and annual affair. It is observed to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women across the globe. This is a day to renew all our efforts in this direction and take stock of all the distance that still needs to be covered.
International Women’s Day 2023
The United Nations theme for this year is “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for gender equality”. It aims to highlight the need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education. It will explore the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities. It will also put a spotlight on the need to protect the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and address online gender-based violence.
The International Women’s Day organization also celebrates this year with the theme, “Embrace Equity”.
A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA.
And it’s critical to understand the difference between equity and equality.
The IWD 2023 campaign theme drives worldwide understanding of why Equal opportunities aren’t enough!
In this Cover Story, some of our Shewriters share their perspectives on women’s day and progress.
Women’s Rights: A Journey of Progress or Regress?
Women have been active participants in shaping the history of the contemporary world. From changing regimes to environmental protection to challenging mindsets they have done it all. So when we talk about women and their part to bring change, we see considerable success.
But has the ecosystem responded the way it should? Let’s take stock of a few things. The year is 2023, women are still fighting to have a right over their bodies. Even in developed countries like the USA abortion is illegal. 90 million girls of reproductive age live in countries that prohibit abortion. Contraceptives are illegal. Twenty-three thousand women die every year due to unsafe abortions. Femicide had worsened during the pandemic. Six women are killed by men every hour. Some refuse to send their girls to school while others are attacked for going to. Their ratio in the total workforce is also not encouraging. Women have a right to vote but do they have a voice? Well, that’s a story for another day.
Then there is the pay gap. Women earn 77% of what men do and are 18% less likely to be promoted. Women pay 7% more for personal products. They do 2.6 times more domestic work. Only six countries in the world give men and women equal legal rights. Marital rape is not a crime in 36 countries. In Nigeria, a man is legally allowed to hit his wife. In El Salvador, women can be jailed for miscarriage. In 39 countries laws prevent women from inheriting the same proportions of assets as men. In Syria, penal codes allow lesser punishment for honor killings. With so many female political leaders resigning there is a debate going on about their competency and commitment. Leaders fail but when a female leader does, it all comes to gender and not policies. The parameters for evaluation change.
Women’s Labour Force Participation – A distant dream or attainable goal?
One of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN is Gender Equality which cannot be accomplished without equal consideration and participation of men and women in the workplace. Enormous efforts have taken place for the past many decades to bring down the disparity. Unfortunately, after the pandemic, all around the world there is a disturbing rate of decline in women’s employment. Lack of childcare facilities, increased responsibilities in household matters, mobility issues, etc contributed more to the decline.
Before Covid -19, there was slow progress in closing down the gender gap which widened more due to the outbreak. Back to the job after the pandemic, became a challenge for women and there are no added considerations for women who opt back for the job. The global statistics indicate that one out of four women leaves the workplace due to the demands of the roles they played in their lives, like that of a working mother, or the responsible daughter or daughters-in-law. Statistics indicate that 4.5 percent of women’s jobs are placed in sectors where the global pandemic has had a bad effect. For example, hospitality, accommodation and food services, education, arts, recreation, etc.
Why this happens to the women’s workforce, and why the issue of the gender gap is not discussed as a global crisis where the women’s workforce constituted 37% of the global GDP? The industry mix and labor market specifics explained one factor which constituted the gap is the vulnerability to job losses during the pandemic.
Another factor that led to the widening of the gap was the exposure of women to unpaid caregiving duty. Everywhere in the world, we have seen women as major frontiers; still, worlds’ 75 % of the unpaid care jobs are being done by women. The research found that the share of women in unpaid-care work has a negative correlation with female labor-force participation rates and a moderately negative correlation with women’s chances of taking up professional and technical jobs or of assuming leadership positions.
The pandemic’s impact on female entrepreneurship especially women-owned microenterprises in developing countries has been immense. A large number of women who worked in these enterprises quit their job and women entrepreneurs found it difficult to cope with the situations of financial scarcity and capital investments. Yet another major factor that determines the growth of women in the workspace is the traditional societal mindsets about the role of women. Many developing countries still believe that when jobs are rare, men are more likely to work rather than women.
According to McKinsey Global Institute Report, $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality worldwide. But if we want to see it come true, lots of additional efforts are to be taken. According to PWC estimates, it would take 63 years to narrow the gender pay gap, 30 years to narrow the participation gap, and 67 years for female full-time employees’ share to be equal with the male share. That means persistent efforts must be there for long years to realize complete parity. On the occasion of International Women’s Day celebrations, our motto is to create women-centric jobs and encourage women to contribute more to the economy showing their significance.
All this data paints a sad picture and we are bound to question ourselves if there is even any progress at all.
Yes, there is. Not only are we talking about it but now women’s issues are national. No government can ignore them. It is an unequivocally accepted fact that education is central to all these efforts. Women are showing their might in courtrooms, boardrooms, parliament, etc. Girls are now fully aware of the fact that education only will lead them to self-sufficiency. There are innumerable stories of courage and determination from across the globe where girls have challenged patriarchy. Their representation in the
workforce is still not as expected but women are quietly climbing the ladders to break the bias.
Women and Leadership: When can we break the Glass ceiling?
Women bring their sensitivity and empathy to work along with excellent multitasking and leadership qualities. Women are consistently voted as better managers. Only 30% of the world’s management roles are held by women. Though the number is considerably lesser than men, the impact women leaders are making in various verticals with a lesser share in senior leadership is commendable. Women make excellent mentors who listen better to their colleagues and manage teams effectively.
Women leaders are more flexible with employees’ requests, they do not micromanage, but rather look at the bigger picture. Women are known to encourage the growth of their team more in the workplace. They observe nonquantitative aspects of productivity and appreciate them more.
Women are underrepresented and are fewer in number in leadership roles than organizations intend to employ them. It is difficult for many women to continue their winning streak owing to familial, societal, and personal obligations, especially in developing countries.
Gender bias and stereotypes still play a large role in the career acceleration of women leaders. Nevertheless, many women leaders feel they must prove themselves constantly unlike men. Women are encouraging with others yet rate themselves lower than what others think of them. More confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness could help them excel.
Despite these challenges, many women made it big, and continue to impact the world with sustainability at the core of their policies.
Women and Finance: Can we bridge the gap?
Women are skillful and are good at managing household budgets, being known for the efficient allocation of resources, and having that in-built quality of managing finance which is in their blood.
In recent times, from stepping into service provider roles, women took over the toughest territory of leadership, becoming CEOs, COOs, and Entrepreneurs in Finance and Fintech.
Many women created new equations in the monetary field starting with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Ex-PM of India who had Nationalized Indian banks, to the present finance Minister of India, Smt. Nirmala Seetaraman whose careful planning targeted facilitation, and fiscal prudence are helping the nation to stay stable in global economic challenges.
Many women CEOs in BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance) Sector have brought revolutionary changes. The list includes Arundhati Bhattacharya, former Chairperson of the State Bank of India, Kalpana Morparia, the Ex-CEO of JP Morgan, Vibha Padalkar, MD and CEO of HDFC Life Insurance, Swati Bhargava Co-Founder of India’s First & largest Cashback & Coupons app CashKaro & EarnKaro and the list goes on.
They are willing to take on challenges, accept responsibility even when the organization is in a bad shape, then contribute towards its growth, and are also more adaptable towards any change than men.
Another interesting fact is that when the World Bank reported correlations between the proportion of women in positions of power in different countries and anti-corruption measures in those countries, the preliminary conclusion was that with more women in power, there was less corruption.
All these qualities of women make them crusaders of the finance spectrum.
Yet, women are also equally less knowledgeable about various investment opportunities, lack personal finance awareness, lack financial support and property rights, face discrimination in money decisions within the family, etc.
Women and Sustainable Development: The match made in heaven
After everything that has happened around the world since 2020, we are witnessing a renewed interest in sustainability due to the havoc that nature has shown, from battling extreme temperatures to wildfires to blizzards. Nature is punishing us. A conscious effort is being made by the government for sustainable development which has been a forte of women for years.
We often see memes about how moms are particular about the Tupperware they lend to family and friends, especially in Southeast Asia. They have too many jokes about moms’ obsession with reusing plastic boxes. Every home has a plastic bag containing several other plastic bags dating from our childhood. Not to mention, gift wrapping paper from various parties, which could be reused for the next one!
In India, it’s not unusual to see a 100-year-old utensil being used for generations together. The in charge of all this inventory is, of course, the lady of the house. We have seen plastic mats woven from waste in African villages.
The younger generation of women is taking forward this legacy with reusable makeup cases, silicon period cups, and many other hacks. Sustainability did not stop at home. Women have been leading changes in consumption, production, distribution, and marketing aspects, keeping sustainability as the top priority.
Women have always been champions of sustainability. This could be seen in the shift in the beauty industry which was the first to adopt a cruelty and chemical-free vegan approach to clean beauty. Organic, herbal, and natural products have more consumers in women, which reflects their concern about the environment. Women are constantly learning about more sustainable ways of consumption, all while keeping the economy active.
Re-Commerce, Pre-loved, and Fashion rentals are gaining momentum and we see many women-led start-ups emerge in the clean beauty and eco-fashion vertical. Investors want to fund companies that are aligned with the concept of sustainability, and more questions are being raised about how a business can help lessen carbon emissions.
Without a doubt, they have succeeded in taking this mindset to the enterprise level and met with astounding success. Women are considered more socially responsible, empathetic, and cooperative, especially in leadership roles.
Things that we can do:
Women’s rights in the workplace are fundamental to achieving gender equality and creating a fair and just society. Although progress has been made, much work must be done to ensure that women are treated fairly and have equal opportunities to succeed. By advocating for and implementing policies that promote gender equality and support women in the workplace and everywhere else, we can create a brighter future for all. Let us strive for progress and fight for women’s rights in the workplace and beyond.
Everyone benefits when we are all treated equally. Not just one day, but every day is our day. Let’s all work hard to achieve our dream. Let’s #EmbraceEquity. The Shesight team invites you all to be a part of this amazing journey.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, 2023