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International Women’s Day 2010: Progress

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International Women’s Day is here again, and this year the theme is “Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all.” We can’t really argue with that, can we? Because while steps have been made, and laws have been enacted, there is still too much inequality between the sexes.

The tables, however, could be turning. There has been talk recently of the “mancession,” as more men than women have lost their jobs in the downturn, and women have become the main breadwinners for their families. There are mutterings about boys needing a helping hand in education in the US, as there are now more college degrees awarded to women than their male counterparts. women can increasingly be found in middle management.

There are even some who say that the push for equality has gone too far, that men are now at a disadvantage. To those people I would say this: international men’s day is because every other day of the year but this one. If you look at the make-up of senior management it any large company, women will be hard to find. If you look at access to advanced education in the developing world, there will be more men than women. If you think about who still bears the brunt of caring for children or relatives, it will not be the men. When you look at who does the bulk of low-paid and part-time work, it will not be the men.

As I said in my Valentine’s Day post, women need to be very careful about how they manage their careers, especially if they plan on having children. Men suffer no such constraints, but that is not to say that they are not also disadvantaged. The long hours, presenteeism and inflexibility of the modern business model harm both mothers and fathers who would like to spend more time with their children. The expectation that women are the more nurturing sex means that many men are put off or actively discouraged from entering professions such as nursing or teaching. The lack of females in the boardroom means that decision-makers are deprived of the experience and insights that are unique to women and girls.

Women make up half the world’s population, and the days when they would quit work and retreat to the home once they married and/or had children are long behind us. If businesses want to preserve the talent of their workforce, they need to ensure that women are able to continue working. With modern technology, it’s astounding that this change still hasn’t happened. Change needs to come, because that would not only benefit women by providing a better work-life balance, but it would also benefit men. In order not to discriminate, men would also need to be entitled to work flexibly, to spend time at home, or to take leave to attend to family obligations. A happy workforce is a more productive workforce, and this benefits the bottom line. There is already pressure for changes to be made; let’s hope the men — for it is they who are still in charge, mostly — are listening.

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5 Comments

  1. A current event to add to the list of things to celebrate today: An Oscar Win for International Women’s Day! Pretty nice timing, no?

  2. Just as an FYI, I am writing daily from Africa about food and agriculture issues for the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog. I’ve been focusing on highlighting women and their innovations to help alleviate hunger and poverty. Here is the link to the site http://www.nourishingtheplanet.org, feel free to check it out. I would love for you to consider cross-posting any posts or to include a link to your site. My personal diary about the trip is called BorderJumpers at http://www.borderjumpers.org. I’m headed to Ghana now, we’ve done research and written about Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Madagascar, and Mauritius. Thanks again for your coverage of International Woman’s Day, Danielle Nierenberg

  3. Stephanie Migot says:

    Oscar wins for the ladies, as I was very pleased to see Mo’nique win Best Supporting Actress too!

    I don’t know if International Women’s Day is so much a time for celebration as reflection about how far we’ve come, and far we still have to go.

  4. Stephanie Migot says:

    Thanks for the tip, Danielle! Are you constantly travelling or do you have a period of rest back at base before your next excursion?

    Women of course do play a huge role in providing food and generating money for families, which is why giving them full equality in all aspects of society would benefit everyone.

  5. Chas Lindsay says:

    cool post. Now I would like to contribute as well by sharing this cool site with downloads, that personally helped me find some awesome and easy to tweak. check it out at http://scarab13.com.

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