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The Myth of Gender Equality

Summary. Is gender equality the right thing for women? is it enough or should we be asking for more? Read to find out our insights into the topic.

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As I started writing this article on the eve of the international women’s day, that is the 8th of March, I started thinking of what this day really means, and why is it that after decades, there are many people who are still unaware of it.

I grew up in Algeria, where the 8th of March is a half day bank holiday for women, this usually means you go to work, you do your job for quarter of the work day, you have a party for the second quarter if your day with flowers, cakes and some symbolic gift to appreciate you as a woman in the workplace, and then you go home and enjoy the second half of your day doing what you like. It is a big deal, the day is talked about in the news, and celebrated in every state and in every organisation. When I came to London, found out that most people don’t know about women’s day, and many consider it an American tradition as opposed to an international day. So, I was very happy to find out later, that many organisations in the UK celebrate their female employees in March and consider it Women’s month. The global organisations I worked for certainly did.

However, with all the events that are organised, panels led by iconic inspiring women, some who contributed quarter of a decade to the work force; I found myself confused by some of the messages that that tend to theme this month, topics like gender equality and the gender pay gap come to mind. I am not entirely sure if most organisations genuinely care about celebrating women, advancing the conversation, or just ticking a box that they did what seems to be socially responsible. Particularly that the topic tends to die with the end of ‘Women’s month’, and it is rare to see any policy change as a result.

To my understanding, gender equality in the workplace can be interpreted in many different ways, but the one most of us would agree on is the equality of opportunity, but what does this really mean? To me, it means if I apply for a job and a man applies for the job and we both have the exact same capabilities or work experience, then we should both have the same chance to get the job, we should both be offered the same compensation, incentive / bonuses, and same promotions if we perform to the same standard. However, I can’t help but think that this is not exactly fair, nor is it empowering to women. In fact, if this equality is applied perfectly, women will still end up with the short side of the stick, and here is why.

In a society that claims that I should embrace who I am (in this context be a women as per what nature chose for me), or in lady gaga’s words, use the mantra ‘baby I was born this way’, I find it hypocritical of society to expect me to work as hard as a man to achieve or be rewarded in the same scale as a man. If I am not a man, then why am I being compared to one when it comes to the workplace? I don’t expect my height or my weight to be compared to my husband (who is taller and weight more by nature), and if I was an athlete, I wouldn’t expect to be playing in the men’s league, so why I am being measured against a scale that was created by men for men in the workplace? 

For decades, the brave hard-working women who took the challenge to measure up, had to put on extra effort, compromise on their personal lives, and personal sources of happiness to measure up and exceed these expectations. But why do we do this to women? To me, it sounds more like a punishment rather than ‘equality’. It is a punishment, because as a woman, you are asking me -and more honestly forcing me- to be someone else, to direct my energy both mental and physical in some directions that were not supposed to be for me, and often to even adjust my personality to survive and ‘succeed’. It goes against nature, and it causes physical and mental exhaustion, stress, and sometimes guilt, which is bound to affect a woman’s mental well-being and personal life.

So again, why do we do this to women, and how did we get here? The angel side of me would think that we got here because it used to be way worst for women, and sometime down the line in the fight for women’s rights, we accepted what we got in the hope that by keeping the fight it will get better.  The devil side of me would think that in a materialistic world, how much money you make to your organisation, and how much tax you pay to your government is all that matters, so no one really would risk losing a monetary value trying to override the systems we live in. After all, if it is not broken, why fix it? Except in this case, it is broken, and it will be even more broken in the years to come.

We seem to take the conversation of the environment and global warming very seriously because we want to leave our children, the future of human race a better place to be, yet this ‘future of the human race’ who is the first in charge of producing it? Oh yes, it is women. Many of whom, have to work hard and endure stress and pressure from the workplace while trying to resolve fertility issue, while being pregnant, and while parenting, as if the few paid months described as maternity leave and possible flexible arrangement for work from home after the maternity are enough to resolve the problem!  I personally know few amazing women (with potentially gold-mine genes) who had to compromise on having children for their career, others spend minimum time with their children or limit the number of children they want to have, also for their career. To me, this is most dangerous because the effect that this will have on future generations is unknown, and it takes decades if not centuries to change behaviour of this scale.

I think it is time that the workplace and society should see the world according to women, after all we are not a minority group, we are 50% of the demographic, and the 50% that is doing the heavy lifting of human production.

I envision a world that does not pressure me as woman to have a career equal to that of a man so I can earn, be considered successful, and achieve as much as a man does. I envision a world that would rebalance the scales, or create a new scale that takes my skills, my capabilities, and uniqueness and compares me against what I can achieve, that doesn’t restrict me to work specific hours, in specific business days, that does not limit me to an X number of months for maternity, that can understand that I might need time off if I want to undergo a fertility treatment, or have my period, and that would encourage me and give me the tools to be successful as a human should I want to take years of work to grow my children without judgement or motherhood penalty on my CV.  I envision a world that will give me the freedom to do who I am and work in a manner that does not exhaust me so I can give back the best of me. A world that would have faith in my contribution and trust that I will deliver, add value, and excel on my own scale. I don’t need equality, I need customisation.

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