Held on the 8th of March every year, International Women's Day is a day for us to join voices with people around the world and shout out loud our message for equal rights - “Women’s rights are human rights!”
The campaign theme for International Women's Day 2021 is #ChoosetoChallenge. A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let's all #ChooseToChallenge!
The earliest 'Women's Day' observance called "National Woman's Day" was organised by activist Theresa Malkiel and the Socialist party of America. Women took to the streets of New York City on the 28th of Feb 1909 and demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. But it wasn't until 1975 when the UN adopted it on the 8th of March turning it into an annual celebration globally!
The 8th of March now holds great significance all around the world as a day to celebrate the achievements of women in all their diversities, embracing their faith, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity, or disability. We pay homage to the
activists of 1909 as we continue to stand together to demand equal rights.
Did you know that just five per cent of the worlds leaders are women?
It's common for beliefs about leadership to default to stereotypes about masculine behaviour which leads to unconscious gender bias. But our own Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continues to show that no one is more able or better to represent our country than a woman and a working mother.
Ardern who gave birth while in office has made history by bringing her baby daughter Neev into the United Nations assembly hall. Her ever supportive partner Clarke tweeted “I wish I could have captured the startled look on a Japanese delegation inside UN yesterday who walked into a meeting room in the middle of a nappy change. Great yarn for her 21st.”
Ardern has also received global recognition and praise for her leadership as she continues to lead a grieving nation through horrific terrorist attacks, natural disasters and a global pandemic. Her empathy, strength and understanding prove to be exactly what our country needs and will continue to confirm what we already knew - that the world needs more female leaders.
Since it's establishment, International Women’s Day is marked as frequently with celebration as it is with protest, but the day’s legacy remains steeped in the struggle for women’s rights - an element that has gained much relevance in recent months, particularly as the #Metoo movement has taken on global dimensions.
Photo Credit: Gurusurya Khalsa
We recognise that some women may never have felt sexist harassment or discrimination, but that is not the case with all woman. These movements that publicise allegations of sexual harassment or abuse help to break the silence and empower women through empathy and solidarity through strength in numbers.
Photo credit: Lucy Cooper
IWD is not going anywhere anytime soon. Days like these are a time to celebrate how far we have come since 1909 but also a reminder of how far we have to go to achieve equality for our future women. We will always have in mind those who came before us, those who stand beside us now, and those who will come after.
After the turmoil of 2020, we at Thunderpants feel it's particularly important to stand together this year. This April we are hosting a Martinborough Makers event at the Thunderpants HQ to celebrate the ongoing achievements of our local female makers and producers. We hope to be able elevate their brands and continue supporting our local wahine.
In addition to this we have asked Thunderpants founder Josie Bidwill to answer a few questions on what International Women's Day means to her and whether or not she have felt any gender bias throughout her career:
What does IWD mean to you?
A celebration and acknowledgment of the women that have suffered from gender inequality and/or fought for equality. It is also a reminder not only of how far we have come but also how far we have to go.
Why did you choose to start your own business?
I worked in male dominated “brigade” style upmarket restaurant kitchens and was unhappy in that sexist environment.
My upbringing was pretty old school with specific career options being appropriate for “girls”.
My formative years were the 1970’s .
All these things and more came together to a point where I realised I did not want to work for anyone else or play by anyone else’s rules so I started my own business so I could be the master of my own destiny.
In your opinion, why do we need more women in leadership?
Women have been oppressed historically and therefore generally more likely to see and feel the result of that therefore more likely to take a more balanced approach to various arguments. I feel that women are naturally more inclined to see other perspectives, less likely to take up arms to solve an argument, more likely to negotiate a fair and equitable solution. Of course this is a generalisation and not always the case.
How would you address the cultural issues that form the background of the gender pay gap?
By doing our own thing and stepping away from the boring culture of the male dominated business model. We employ women and occasionally men that identify as feminists. By using our social media as an opportunity to educate and reiterate the importance of gender equality.
By paying above living wage irrespective of gender.
What gender-specific challenges, stereotypes, or barriers have you had to overcome during your career?
Soooo many from persuading bank managers that women would prefer comfortable underwear to sexy underwear, using regular women as models, business mentors always using a traditional business model that is based in the male oriented business world, being called “girls” despite being nearly 60, being told by men what women want, unrequested photoshopping of models, being told we are a scourge on society by giving women “unsexy” underwear…. The list goes on
What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?
Heaps ! Women are way more likely to carry on regardless now doing what they want to do. The "me too" movement has helped bring sexual abuse issues to the mainstream and we can all talk way more openly about things. Men supporting their mothers, partners, daughters, sisters etc has had a huge impact as well calling out the stale attitudes of the past. The LGBTQI+ movement has also helped break down gender barriers.
When I grew up I was told “ it’s a woman’s duty to look beautiful”. Its certainly not something my 16 year old daughter would hear, I hope.
Attitudes may be changing but the pay gap is still real. Although there are a lot more conversations and legislation around equality there are still a lot of stale attitudes buried deep in the conservative psyche.
How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
Women supporting women is huge. In a society that has been focussed around men and sidelining women the support of women for women is sometimes the only thing between sanity and insanity. There is nothing more depressing than seeing/hearing women blame women for the circumstances they find themselves in, especially in relation to men.
The support of other women means so very much to me and has played a large part in my personal acceptance of myself and the way I present both personally and as a business person.
On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
Whatever career you choose, your working life will be a lot happier and easier to manage if you hold a passion for your chosen field. Your gender shouldn’t come into it.