Should we be celebrating Women's Equality Day?
Today is a day that #womensequalityday is trending like wildfire on twitter.
Women's Equality Day commemorates the day women in the US were granted the right to vote (in 1920) and its been proclaimed by the US President on this day every year for the last 45 years. It's a strange one to be honest, because while we would love to celebrate equality for women; the name of the day is to a certain degree misleading. It connotes a sense that women and men are equal, and while in terms of voting legislation we are, but this achievement is only one penny in a pocketful of change.
In the UK, women received the right to vote upon the passing of the Representation of the People Act in 1918 (and this was only for householders over the age of 30, despite all men being over 21 being able to vote; voting equality was only instated until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 was passed). It has been almost 100 years since women have been recognized as equals; yet on Wiki's 'Feminism in the United Kingdom' timeline, there hasn't been a single milestone added since 1928. While we cannot forget the efforts that have been made to achieve gender diversity in the UK and the role models that have stood to change perception (like Harriet Harman's Everyday Sexism Project, ambassadors like Emma Watson bringing attention to the UN's#HeForShe campaign, and other pioneers for gender equality, at the current rate of change, it will take more than 70 years for us to achieve gender-balanced boardrooms. As Justine Greening, the incumbent Minister for Women & Equalities in the UK says,
We cannot wait for women's empowerment.
And I don't think she said that with an intent to emphasize *cannot* or portray excitement. We cannot wait for women's empowerment because, we are currently standing on the shoulders of the women before us, and expecting the women after us to make a change. Our progress for women's equality has stagnated as we've become increasingly complacent. Equality is all-encompassing. It means more than the right to vote. It requires us to empower women and girls through ending discrimination, violence and forced marriage. We still need to protect our girls from genital mutilation, ensure access to health and reproductive choice; we need to be certain that girls have equal rights to land, inheritance and the provision of public and financial services. It will require us to undertake reform on a political, economic and social scale and adopt policies to ensure such legislation is enforced.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that Goal no.05 is to 'achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls'. Most relevant to SheCanCode's aims, the Agenda aims to: 'enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women'.
In order for the UK to drive sustainable economic growth in light of Brexit (further trade difficulties that will contribute to the already record-high trade deficit of £12.5bn), widening generational income gaps and public spending cuts that have distributional effects contributing to increased inequality; neoliberal or free-market agents need to take action and responsibility to ensure they are enabling and encouraging women to enter industries like IT & Communications to keep up with the rate of technological acceleration and thereby ensure they maintain competitive advantage.
And why should they?
It would be in their interests to do so. Achieving gender parity would be worth around $28 trillion to the world's global economy, or would increase GDP by 26% by 2025. Gender parity in the UK alone could bring labour £0.6 trillion of additional annual GDP by 2025.
To achieve the [sustainable development goals], we need a quantum leap in women's economic empowerment. - Ban Ki-Moon.
So rather than celebrate #womensequalityday, let's commemorate the women before us. Let's see this day as a reminder that we have many milestones we have yet to count as a win, and then start strategizing how we can drive equality for sustainable development rather than feeding off the false sense of perception that we've done enough.
We need to act now for women's empowerment.
Come back next week to read our post on Gender Pay Gap Reporting.