Challenging gender inequality
Has March 2020 ended? If you recall, it was in March 2020 when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, prompting several countries to impose lockdowns and travel restrictions. It has been a year, but the reality is that we seem to be in the same place a year ago. Hence, in an effort to humor ourselves with a bleak running joke, some say that it is now the 365th day of March 2020, even complete with a website called www.IsMarchOverYet.Com.
That aside, March 2021 is really here, and more importantly, it is once again the month when the world celebrates Women’s Month and International Women’s Day, on March 8.
The UN Women’s theme for 2021 is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 world,” and for the International Women’s Day Organization the theme is “#ChoosetoChallenge.” In my opinion, these two themes blend well with what is happening and what exactly needs to be done: one, a conscious effort to challenge outdated beliefs and practices, and two, the need to adopt a proactive approach and effort to repair a system that allows women to take the extra and unnecessary load. Personally, I see both themes as a challenge to hold leaders with the platform and resources accountable to ensure they effect change. As women empowerment advocates, we should “walk the talk.”
Choose to challenge the status quo. About a month ago, Yoshiro Mori, then head of Japan’s Olympics Organizing Committee, justified the exclusion of women from the board, citing the reason that women talk too much at meetings. This drew flak from different groups and even the diplomatic community, forcing Mori to apologize and later to resign. He may have resigned, but his words still rankle.
Mori’s apology brought to light the male-dominated “boys club” that still exists in many workplaces and the dominating patriarchal culture that continues to dismiss sexism as “jokes”—and this is not exclusive to just one country.
While the knee-jerk reaction is to spew fire and enumerate all the reasons why his statement is inaccurate, I would like for us to look at the bigger picture: We have to stop this kind of disrespect toward and disregard for women.
Challenging the status quo is difficult. In our culture, we are wired to seek acceptance from others and if we go “against the flow,” we are branded or even blacklisted as “walang pakisama.” We need to consistently identify and call out sexism and misogyny if we want them eliminated.
Choose to educate. Things will not change unless we all understand the impact of such language and behavior. The more important step is to educate. We are at different levels or stages of understanding the impact of our actions and behaviors on others—whether these affect them or not. What may seem like common sense for some might be something new or a revelation to others.
Choose to change. They say that with challenge comes change. For us to see concrete changes, it is important to make the choice to challenge inequalities where we see them. We can choose to acknowledge and celebrate women’s contributions and achievements, as well as to empower them to take on leadership roles. This month and every day thereafter, we should choose to challenge outdated practices and ultimately eliminate gender biases that continue to harm and set us back.
Ma. Aurora “Boots” D. Geotina-Garcia is the chairperson of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network and the cochairperson of the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment.
Women Who Lead is an initiative of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network.
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