Today, on March 8, women all over the world are coming together to celebrate the International Women's Day. This year the theme is 'Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.' As a woman who will soon be entering the working world – less than two years to go – this theme touches me a lot. I have put down some of my thoughts on the current situation, feminism and how we as women can empower each other. #BeBoldforChange
Becoming a feminist
Growing up a girl in Finland, I didn’t consider my gender to be a hindrance in any big way. After all, Finland elected its first female president when I was only 7 years old. I had plenty of strong female role models, even if my career ambitions back then ranged from princess to circus performer. It felt obvious that I could become whatever I wanted if I just tried hard enough.
It wasn’t until later, in my early teens that I started to realise that the world looked quite different for my gender. As progressive as the Finnish society was – is – there were always underlying expectations and attitudes. Girls should be kind, girls should not be bossy. Of course you will get married and have children when you grow up. Boys are better in sports and Mathematics. Girls who like clothes and make-up aren’t smart. Smart women are plain and boring. Women are less convincing than men.
Suddenly you are taught to feel afraid, suddenly your chances to do and be what you want seem so limited.
Growing up with the idea that your gender doesn’t matter and then seeing that in reality there is still so much inequality. For me it would be very difficult not to be a feminist.
Far from equal
I try to stay on top of what happens in the world and its politics. Next year in Finland we will once again choose a new president for the next four years and yet there is not one female candidate so far. In fact, one of the possible female candidates announced that she would not consider running. In the Netherlands the parliamentary elections are ongoing but not a single one of the larger political parties have a female lead. And of course, we all know how things are in the US.
Last week, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a Polish member of the European parliament stated during a session that ‘of course, women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent.’ And women do earn less than men. In 2016 in Finland women had their ‘last pay day of the year’ on October 31. On average men in Finland earn two months’ wages worth more than women do.
Of course, to get paid you first have to get hired. Not a simple task as a woman. I have heard many times – once even directly from someone at a hiring position – that companies don’t want to hire young women because they will just ‘get pregnant and start working less.’ Roughly 75 percent of the Dutch women in the workforce work part-time, regardless of having children. Times are changing, and more women here would choose to work full-time. However, there are simply not enough full-time positions offered for women. Possibly due to the expectation that women work only part-time. As a result, there are less women in top management positions.
All of this makes me painfully aware of the obstacles that this world throws at women and I am in a relatively privileged situation here. I’m a white woman living in a Western country with access to proper healthcare and the right to make decisions about my own health and my body.
Fortunately I have also seen women come together to create positivity. To stand up for each other. All over the world women gather for Women’s Marches to protest the misogynist comments and decisions made by their governments. In the European parliament the Spanish member Iratxe Garcia Perez set her Polish colleague straight right after his comments.
In my own life I also see a lot of strong women. I’m a part of a Finnish Facebook group of thousands of women supporting each other in the working life. They share tips, experiences, offer mentoring and each in their own life work to improve things for career women. I follow quite a few female bloggers blogging about finances, career advice. Many of my friends and family are constant sources of inspiration for me. #Girlboss is #goals. So many amazing female role models all over the world.
Be Bold for Change
For this year especially my personal goal is to help the women and girls around me to feel better about themselves. I want to be supportive and encouraging. When somebody is doubting their own abilities I will tell them that they can do it. I will get rid of the harmful speech that puts women down and I will speak up when I hear others use it. I will get into the tiresome discussions to make others see how we are still a long way from equality. These are things that I can do in my every day life. We don’t all have to be #girlbosses or presidents but let’s make it easier to become one by changing the world a bit by bit.