In the spirit of International Women’s Day – I see guys rolling their eyes, chill out, women gat this week 😊 – I read a bit about this year’s IWD celebration. I found some really depressing statistics; like it would take another hundred or so years before we achieve gender equality in the world. Just imagine that! Many women will remain marginalized and still earn less for equal tasks than their male counterparts for 100 years! Quite saddening!
The debate for women empowerment and gender parity has been a continuous one. And a lot has been achieved even though ‘the promised land’ is still far off. Although men in their own ways, have tried to promote the cause by creating more women friendly work policies, to make giant strides, we need more women in positions of authority. Be it in politics, business or the private sector, women just have to step it up. Understandably, a lot of factors inhibit this ‘stepping up’, least of which is our responsibility at the home front; a factor whose mitigation lies only in spousal support. Even with the needed support, in many ways, our actions and inactions as women show our readiness or otherwise for the top.
Ever heard of the book, Nice Girls don’t get the corner office 101 by Lois Frankel? I read that book a couple of years ago and it literally changed my perspective. Lois basically said in that book that your dressing, hairstyle and makeup choices (among other factors, of course!) could tell if a woman was ready to play in the big leagues. And I thought about it, almost all the women in senior positions (and there are a lot of them!) in my organisation, dress and look the part. No loud makeup, tight skirts, 26 inch weaves or 6 inch heels. Nothing to allow ogling. I think it’s more of a strategy than a coincidence. No ogling, no distractions, the
boys men focus better. Think about the successful women you know; Hilary Clinton (whose femininity is totally de-emphasised in her presidential campaign, but that’s story for another day) or Ibukun Awosika or Olajumoke Adenowo, the list goes on, they are covered up. Not to sound cliché, but you really are addressed the way you dress.
In some cases, we just need to speak up for ourselves in the workplace. Men can’t always do it for us. In my organisation, we have a weekly knowledge sharing and we take turns in coordinating. Last month, the administrator asked me to handle the ‘Spread love this Valentine’ theme for that week. I was curious because I had never been nominated to handle topical issues. And he gave me the dreaded answer, “well, because you are a woman, you know”…I had been stereotyped. Luckily, I was able to wiggle out of it. It happens to a lot of us. Some women don’t mind, but trust me, it’s not in your best interest to have a wrong stereotype.
We really need to take more chances, more calculated risks. I understand we are naturally cautious but please join the #DoitAfraid bandwagon. At the risk of sounding motivational, you just gat to go for it anyway anyhow. I watched a video recently, of Tara Fela-Durotoye talking about raising funds for her business. She had gone into an interview with a bank MD, hoping for a N500, 000 loan but instead summoned courage and asked for N40m! And she got it! That’s what I’m talking about.
Above all, we should always bear in mind that we are first human, then female. I like the way Sefi Atta put it, when asked her perspective as a female writer in an interview, she responded, ”I’m not a female writer, I am a writer”.
It’s still International Women’s Day (everyday is!). Be happy. Be inspired. Be all of you and more!