Feminism is for all

Growing up, I confused the words feminism and effeminate and often used them interchangeably.  While effeminate is having qualities untypical of a man, feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.  They are quite different.

On 1 August 2017, Jacinda Ardern became the leader of the Labour political party in New Zealand. Jacinda is 37.  One of the first questions she was asked in a public interview after taking the post was whether she would be having babies.  Not only was this question a breach of the NZ Human Rights Act, I doubt that a male leader would have been asked the same question.  Bill English is the current Prime Minister and has 6 children.  As Gloria Steinem, a feminist and activist says "I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career."

Earlier this year I was tasked with orchestrating a desk move at work.  It was difficult, I hadn't realised just how attached my colleagues were to their desks.  One colleague was particularly rude.  He is an older male in a senior management position.  I don't know what offended him more, the fact that someone so junior was asking if he would agree to move or the fact that I was a woman.  Most likely both.  Ironically this was a day after International Woman's Day, clearly he had not joined in the celebrations.

In a report commissioned by the Ministry of Women published in March 2017, the gender pay gap in New Zealand was reported as 12.7%, with the gap being wider at the upper end of the wage distribution.  In April 2017, there was a landmark decision to give pay equity to about 55,000 lowly paid, mainly female care workers after years in court. This meant a pay rise of $7 based on what a similarly skilled man would earn. It amazes me that in a progressive world, women still have to fight for the same basic rights as men, never mind the challenges faced in Third World countries.

There is hope with companies like ANZ offering flexible working for everyone and having almost no gender pay gap, and GE working to have 20,000 women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) roles by 2020.

And so, this week I had an epiphany.  I too am a feminist.  And as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her TED talk (also published as a book), We should all be feminists"Yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.  All of us, women and men, must do better."


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