Article: A critical look at International Women's Day today


A critical look at International Women's Day today

A crucial assessment of its present significance is imperative, questioning whether International Women's Day has retained its original fervour or yielded to commercialization.
A critical look at International Women's Day today

International Women's Day has undergone a remarkable transformation, transitioning from a grassroots movement advocating for women's rights in select countries to a globally celebrated occasion replete with contemplation and recognition. Has it preserved its original passion, or has it succumbed to commercialisation and become superficial? By unravelling the evolution of this day, let's collectively chart a course forward, striving to achieve the visionary dreams of the women who ignited this revolutionary movement.

Origin of International Women's Day

International Women's Day had its inaugural celebration in 1911, emerging from a resolution passed at the International Conference of Working Women held in 1910 in Copenhagen. The United Nations officially marked International Women's Day on 8 March 1975, designating the year as International Women's Year to spotlight women's accomplishments and promote global gender parity. When women have access to opportunities, societies tend to become more just, economies are more likely to thrive, and governments are better positioned to address the needs of all their citizens.

The present gender paradigm

This year, as we commemorated International Women's Day under the 'Invest in Women’ theme, the world continuously strove to bridge the gap of inspiring inclusion. The WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index 2023 indicated that although the global parity score, at 68.4%, had rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, the overall rate of change had slowed significantly. The index evaluated 146 countries across four key dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment, monitoring progress towards closing gender gaps over time. Despite progress, Political Empowerment remained the most significant gap, with only 22.1% closed – a modest increase of 0.1 percentage point from 2022.

Currently, as women are expected to assume the role of primary care provider for their families, the lack of adequate childcare options further exacerbates the challenges, sidelining countless women from promising futures. 

The concerns of today's women go beyond human rights, extending to the continued lack of women in positions of power. This issue permeates various arenas, from corporate boardrooms to the courts and political leadership worldwide, and it impedes progress on diverse fronts, including pay equity, humanitarian aid, and combating discrimination in all its forms. A global survey by LinkedIn, covering 163 countries, presents data pointing towards persistent skewing in women's representation in the workforce and leadership across industries3. The report states that though women accounted for 41.9% of the workforce in 2023, only 32.2% hold senior leadership positions (Director, Vice-President (VP) or C-Suite).

The core economic issues burdening women and their families are profound, ranging from unequal pay and inability to fund their education to challenges faced for availing appropriate healthcare. Even disparity in wages exists across sectors and geographies. A recent report by Forbes stated that despite attempts to narrow the gap, women still earn 16% less than men on average. According to the study, women continue to make less than men in nearly every occupation, from entry-level positions to the C-suite4. 

Marching towards an equitable future

Recognising that investing in women in leadership roles is important for the progress of society will lead to holistic progress. Kamala Harris, one of the most influential women leaders, remarked, "I don't think it's possible to name just one challenge—from the economy to climate change to criminal justice reform to national security, all issues are women's issues—but I believe a key to tackling the challenges we face is ensuring women are at the table, making decisions." Her observation underscores the indispensable perspective women bring to positions of power, which is essential for addressing complex societal issues effectively.

 As a woman leader in the 21st century, I believe in extending human rights, political freedoms, and economic opportunities for women globally. Ensuring that the economy works for women and families nationwide is imperative. Gender equality and women’s well-being are paramount, and investing in women is a cornerstone for building inclusive societies. Moreover, reiterating the theme of 'Invest in Women' must be truly inclusive; it must benefit women from the marginalised sections of society and the urban female workers across professions. Only when women leaders endeavour to uplift other women will the dream of removing gender disparity become a reality. It is time to embody the spirit of the visionary poet Maya Angelou’s words, "Every time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all the women."

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Topics: Diversity, Leadership, #InternationalWomensDay

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