I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t always celebrate International Women’s Day. You see I grew up privileged. I was the youngest of four children and the only girl and my Dad always told me that I could do anything and be anything I wanted. He told me so often that it became (and still is) one of my core beliefs.
Growing up with 3 older brothers and their friends and attending a co-ed high school where my gender was largely outnumbered, I have always been confident around the opposite sex. This combined with my core belief that I was equal, made me blind to the fact that I was often seen and treated differently.
I remember when one General Manager at a Hotel I worked at called me into his office and told me that I needed to wear skirts or dresses to work verses my preferred pants suit. I was in my early twenties and worked in HR. I told him that his request would be a discriminatory and that me wearing a pants suit to work complied with our grooming policy and did not impact my ability to do my job (I did tell you that I was confident right?) I purposely wore pants every day thereafter and promptly applied for another job.
But still I didn’t get it, I thought that he was an exception. I can only conclude now that my privileged upbringing made me overconfident.
It took me a few more years for my childhood rose coloured glasses to come off for me to realise that the world saw and treated me, and every other woman, differently.
Unfortunately, that General Manager is still not an exception today and now, more than two decades later, I’ve got very little confidence around being treated as an equal. Women continue to be treated differently to men based on our gender. We are excluded. We are judged and we are overlooked.
I’m tired of trying to enlighten anyone who cannot acknowledge women’s issues and show a willingness to evolve our misogynistic culture. All the information is there, the statistics don’t lie, and I know a plethora of women who could tell you countless personal experiences of discrimination.
So now, I’m just unapologetic. I believe that I am equal and deserve equal treatment. Expect me to call you out if I hear or see any prejudices in what you are saying or doing. I will treat you with respect but it’s not my job to educate you. If you are a human with any empathy at all, you will do that yourself, but I will not be silent.
I will raise my children, both my sons and my daughter to understand how our society is wired for discrimination and that we need to be aware and do things differently, especially when we are not the person being impacted. It’s not enough to just raise strong daughters, we also need to raise empathic sons if things are going to change.
So this year I’m celebrating International Women’s Day by challenging myself and committing to being unapologetically female and demanding equality. If the last few weeks are anything to go by, it’s going to be needed now more than ever.