Why is International Womens Day important?

Yesterday in New Zealand (and today, the 8th of March, around much of the world) it is International Womens Day.

I was brought up in the Soviet Union, and so this is a day that was always seen as very important – in fact it is a national holiday.

International Womens Day was established at a time when women were treated as second class citizens in society – either given legal status as a dependent, or potentially treated as property in marriage.

The original idea behind the day was that women and men should be treated equally by the law and by society, should be afforded the same opportunities as men, which constitutes things such as equal pay.

This is not to say that the average woman should have the same outcomes as the average man – but that a woman who is otherwise the same as a man, in terms of her abilities and desires, have the opportunity to achieve the same things. This opportunity is, furthermore, not just about getting the same pay when in a job – but having the same chance of getting the job in the first place!

So what does the data tell us about that? Mary Jo Vergara at Kiwibank has a great post on this. Her conclusion is that female economic and social status has genuinely improved over the past 50 years – but when it comes to the labour market, and the predominance of women still being second earners, there is a gap.

This raises the question – are these difference due to systematic biases (people in society not wanting to hire women) or due to women not applying for the roles/not putting themselves forward. This is a tough question, but in my own life there is one thing I see as a proactive solution to both of them – finding women in my life and career that can inspire me to do more.

For this reason, the actions of the old World Bank Chief Economist in standing down about research aren’t important just because they were morally right – but they also give other women like myself confidence to stand up in their jobs when it is needed.

Chatting with Matty on the 8th about the economic status of women in legislation through time, and the importance WWII had for putting pressure on this (and on racist legislation) really reinforced to me how important experience with work – and having people that are similar to you doing things so that you feel confident to – is to people.