We need a #BalanceForBetter this International Women's Day

Some might say that we live in exciting times. With the rise in female CEO's to the wider acceptance of LGBTQ+ persons, it's easy to think that we are on the right track for gender parity. But whilst this might seem the case, there is so much more that needs to be done under the surface to truly feel that we are making the big strides that we need to be making. 

Today is International Women's Day, the day that calls upon the celebration of women. But also highlights how far we have yet to go for gender equality. This year the theme is the brilliant Balance for Better. To highlight that having a gender balanced society helps not only economics and businesses to survive, but also gives women the platform they deserve to thrive in work, relationships, friendships and the community that they are a part of. 

For me, I feel that a balance for better starts in both education and the workplace. Working in a school environment, it’s easy to see how sometimes gender stereotypes and roles are instilled through social media, playground chat and how they grow rooted in these preconceptions about women and careers. But in a world where a girl can grow up to be in whatever career she wants to be in, diversity and open conversation is something that should be encouraged. STEM careers shouldn’t be seen just for men, give girls access to diverse and accessible training to give them the platform to achieve what they want to do. 

It needs to start with addressing the gender wage gap in apprenticeships. Realising that these skills should be valued just the same, whether a hairdresser or an electrician. These young people are al learning and working on the same level. When women earn on average 14% less than men in apprenticeships, it leaves me thinking why should one be paid more than the other to further their education?

It doesn’t get better once women step into the workplace. We need a balance for better to not only improve working life for women, but also to change the attitude towards working mothers and those of a childbearing age. As someone that has experienced both workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, I know first-hand how badly this can affect someone, for me it made me feel worthless as a team member. 

Women are held back when it comes to work for so many different reasons, whether it’s flexible working or childcare. There seems to still be a perception that once women have children, or they reach a childbearing age, that they are no longer dedicated to their jobs as they have more to their life than work. With childcare costing more than the minimum wage, it leaves many women faced with the agonising choice of what is financially viable. It feels like there is such an archaic view still around that women bear the brunt of childcare, whilst the men go out to earn a wage. When in reality most women can earn similar to their male counterparts, yet this all changes as soon as they become pregnant. 

54,000 women a year will experiences maternity discrimination of some form in the workplace. When you are faced with a staggering number like that, yet are told that gender equality isn’t something we need to fight for anymore it feels like a slap to the face. My own story of maternity discrimination is one that is all too common, and unfortunately it won’t be fixed until there is a better balance in boardrooms and head offices. 

Despite being illegal, most women are afraid to speak up about discrimination and harassment in the workplace. With worries about future employability and job stability, it’s no wonder that most women don’t speak up. And in a society where “me too” is one of the most common phrases, it’s hard to see that such incidents are still rife. Personally I feel that employers need to be re-educated on what is right and wrong when it comes to these issues, they need to be monitored and it needs to be easier for a woman to talk about what has happened. 

In a time where we have a female prime minister, where a female has just become the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, women need to be represented in work from the bottom to the very top. When there are still more CEO’s with the name of John and Paul than there are women in those roles, it tells you that there still needs to be steps towards women accessing the boardrooms. 

This year International Women’s Day are championing a balance for better and I sure hope that we see those positive steps taken. Until then I will continue to shout from the rooftops, campaign and support those organisations that are fighting for equality in the world we dub a man’s world. 

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