I woke up this morning to a barrage of social media posts promoting and celebrating International Women’s Day 2019 . My initial reaction was oops I’d forgotten about this and as a strong, independent women I should have known and been involved in some way. As more and more posts appeared on my social media feed surrounding this day, I noticed there was a general theme (not in all cases), that appeared to focus on promoting and singling women out to be superior to men. This started to concern me. I’m sure when the organisers first set up organising a day which celebrates the struggles and achievements of women throughout history to the present day and to encourage gender equality going forward, they did not intend for this to become a ‘women are better than men’ campaign. The organisers are clearly aware of this shift in women empowerment as the theme this year is #balanceforbetter. However, many of the posts I’ve read didn’t seem to get that memo or ignored it completely.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the empowerment of women, after all I am one and fully aware of the struggles women had and continue to have in being recognised as equals in society, education and in the workplace. I’ve read many a post written for this day that shared the women that have inspired and influenced them. However, very few focused on the non gender specific influences on their lives, in order for them to become strong independent women. I will share mine with you as this matters to me and I think it should matter to everyone.
Let’s start with the people that brought me into this World, my Mum and Dad. I have been extremely lucky to have two inspirational role models as parents. Both have helped to shape the values I live by today, to strive to be happy in myself and to go out and fulfil my dreams and ambitions. Both worked extremely hard to provide for my Brother and I and to create a stable environment where we could grow and develop our own minds and our own paths. Neither one placed gender bias on our upbringing (I played with dolls, but also Action Men and Star Wars characters) and I grew up believing that if I put my mind to something, I can achieve it. My Dad taught me that from a very young age. At no point did he ever say to me as a girl I would have to work harder than any boy or man to achieve and be recognised as an equal. To this day, I know that if I put my mind to something and I work hard, I will achieve in line with my peers, whether male or female. I have done this throughout my working life, study and now with the launch of my business this year Sarah Diane Creative.
This is not to say I’ve not experience gender bias and gender inequality. I have. What is more common, in my experience in education, the workplace and society, is that both male and females have influenced me both positively and negatively. I have, on the one hand, been empowered, promoted and supported by many males in all arenas, I have also experienced just as many restrictions, jealousy and nastiness from females, which to this day still baffles me! I have also had negative male experiences, along with many supportive and empowering female influences and relationships.
At this point in my life I look back at the incredible supportive people that have helped me over the years to find who I am, what I want from life and to become a strong independent person. My husband, in addition to my parents, is my rock and soul mate and he inspires me every single day. He loves and supports me unconditionally in anything and everything I want to achieve. He is there for me through it all, without agenda or self promotion. My brother and sister-in-law are incredibly supportive and balanced as are my wider family and particularly the close circle of friends I have developed over many years, who are a mix of both male and females.
My three children inspire me every single day. I have two girls and one boy and all three are incredibly balanced, fun loving and grounded young people. Life is harder for them than it was for me growing up and that isn’t down to gender bias, it’s down to increasing economical, social and educational pressures in a faster paced digital World. My priority, along with my husband, is to continue to help our children navigate the choppy waters of life and inspire them to love themselves, be strong independant people and achieve what their heart desires. Ultimately I want them to be happy with who they and to never think they are restricted by anything or anyone. They will of course face disappointments, restrictions and negativity throughout life, but through each chapter they will learn, grow and get stronger. I also know they will never let any type of gender bias directed against them defeat them.
I recognise that gender inequality still exists, but I do feel with the rise in hard core femisists promoting women as better than men is creating gender bias also. I feel that companies and organisations are under increased pressure to provide a ‘tick box’ to cover not only gender equality, but many other areas where inequalities still exist to avoid legal disputes. This is not helpful either! As such, scales may tilt in another direction over time, which will only create more gender imbalances and gender competition. What matters is a balanced view where any individual, regardless of gender, race, disability, age or background can achieve and have opportunities open to them based around passion, hard work and experience. What we have to be careful of is people feeling ‘entitled’ to roles and opportunities because they feel they are in the minority. Hard work forever pays should always be the basis for opportunity and achievement.
Happy International Women’s Day to all the hardworking girls and women in this World and those that I’ve had the pleasure in knowing, you are awesome. I would like to also recognise all male and female influences that help to create equality for all. Balance in all things is better for everyone.