Time to move beyond hashtags. Real progress, please.
I remember when the theme for International Women's Day this year was released and “#pressforprogress” started popping up all over social media, I sighed to myself as I scrolled through the posts on my phone screen, one after the other.
This wasn’t because I don’t believe in the significance of International Women's Day or the importance of having a powerful catch phrase that can be echoed, but because that’s usually where most people stop.
The extent of their involvement to advance women begins at a couple of retweeted hashtags the day before International Women's Day and ends with yet another hash tagged post at an event that they are attending. Whilst I think all efforts to fuel the discussion around gender equality should be celebrated, no matter how big or small, I do think it’s given many people a false sense of participation and advocacy in a movement they’re normally indifferent to at best.
I know that for a fact because, despite of the wave of trending hashtags and the passionate pledge for progress, the daily reality has changed very little for women worldwide.
* There are more 'Andrews' leading ASX200 organisations as CEOs than there are women
* Men still get paid $26,527 a year more than women for doing the same job
* Less than one third of Australian working women feel they are being treated equally in the workplace, and
* 53% of Australian women reported having experienced sexual harassment, with 17% experienced in the past 12 months alone.
Participation in International Women's Day does not equate to participation in driving gender equality. If we are to see any real progress in these disappointing statistics, it takes real commitment from everyone on a daily basis. It’s an active and daily decision to sponsor women to the table; to advocate women’s advancement; to pay women equally; to respect women’s voices; to include women in decision-making; to invest in women’s development needs; to educate men on the right thing to do and to challenge people’s biases, conscious or unconscious – on a daily basis.
It’s hard work, but it’s also not rocket science. Progress can’t be achieved by a hashtag, but by the language you use, the people you mentor, the money you invest and the time you spend. That’s what’s going to get us real progress – significant and sustainable progress.
I am encouraged by the increasing interest from men and women, near and far, to actively participate in this conversation. In the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the global attention and demand for change certainly signals a positive tectonic shift that we have all been waiting for.
The theme for International Women's Day in 2015 was ‘Re-thinking women’s empowerment’, 2016 was ‘Pledge for parity’, 2017 was ‘Be bold for change’. We have re-thought; pledged and been bold; yet in 2018 we are still pressing for the progress that we so hoped for, but struggle to see.
It really is time, to move beyond a short-lived and tokenistic commitment to drive progress. It is time, for every single one of us to own this progress and ensure that these fervent declarations on International Women’s Day are reflected in the daily reality of women everywhere.