In the message send on the International Women’s Day 2011, Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of created in July 2010 UN Women said among others:
Much has been achieved over 100 years. When the first International Women’s Day took place, women could vote only in two countries. Today, that right is virtually universal and women have now been elected to lead Governments in every continent. Women are participating in the workforce in greater and greater numbers and 67 countries have laws mandating equal pay for men and women; 126 countries have guaranteed maternity leave. As we see on our television screens every day, women and girls are mobilizing, alongside men and boys, to advance political freedoms worldwide.
While the achievement of gender equality is closer than ever before, we still have far to go. Our vision in UN Women is a world where men and women have equal opportunities and capacities and the principles of gender equality are embedded in the development, peace and security agendas.
Annie Lennox, asked by guardian to discuss feminism, decided to invite 5 other British female celebrities, namely Beverley Knight (singer), Jane Shepherdson (Whistles chief executive), VV Brown (singer and model), Katharine Whitehorn (journalist), Monica Ali (author) to share their thoughts. It resulted in a living and very current discussion about the myths, the obstacles and the values. The most interesting excerpts:
The argument of biology
There was a woman prime minister when I was at secondary school, the sex discrimination act had been passed already, and when I went to college women’s rights was still a politicised issue. Given all that, why have we still such a long way to go in terms of pay, boardroom inequality, lack of women MPs, figures of domestic violence, percentage of housework and childcare done by women… Part of the answer is the tendency to blame biology. There’s a tendency to shrug and say women have children so there’s a career gap, instead of thinking well, in what ways can we make sure that doesn’t disadvantage women?
The new role models
I’m worried for young women, how everything is about how can I be famous, how can I make money quickly? We need to make sure that our role models are not just reality TV contestants, but doctors, judges, intellectuals.
And it isn’t just that you say, “I want to be like her.” My role models were actually men. It never occurred to my father to give me a worse education than my brothers, which was a rarity in those days.
Women and the music industry
In the music industry where if you dare to stick your head above the parapet and say actually I don’t really want to be defined as a musician in terms of the size of my breasts, instantly marketing managers will put you in the box marked as “trouble”. “She’s going to be difficult.” (…)
Certainly in music, the way people are perceived to be successful or doing well is how many “units” – not even albums – have you sold? And how can we sell this product? She’s a woman: fastest way to do it S-E-X. If she doesn’t have the formulaic, garden-variety look we’re after she’s going to be difficult. And you get women who embrace that, take that skewed image of what it is to be successful, basing it on looks, and regarding themselves as being empowered.
Women in business
Oversensitive, irrational, all those labels… I’ve come up through an industry with men who are quite bullying, alpha-male characters. To succeed in any business, women have to be unafraid of confrontation. But a lot of women would rather avoid it and that tends to be a reason they don’t succeed as they think: “You know what, it’s not really worth the trouble, I’ll just do this instead.”
For me the anomaly is that the western countries are so resourced. I can identify with a woman losing a child. This happened to me, I lost a baby. But I’m living in a place where I can get medical treatment. A woman in Rwanda or Uganda or Bangladesh will deliver a baby on the floor and probably it won’t survive and there’s a good chance the mother won’t either. Being conscious of this vast disparity between our experiences, I’m appalled the word feminism has been denigrated to a place of almost ridicule and I very passionately believe the word needs to be revalued and reintroduced with power and understanding that this is a global picture. It isn’t about us and them.
But when you speak up about it you’re the one who is labelled as combative, aggressive, because feminism is seen as some kind of putting on of a man’s angry cloak. You’re either laughed at or you’re some woman with big bovver boots and a shaved head trying to be like a guy. That’s the response you get. Feminism is neither of those two things. It’s about women caring about other women, giving a voice to those who have no other voice.
See also Annie Lennox coverage of the International Women’s Day under this link.
Annie was the most visible celebrity on the 8th March 2011, adocating for global women’s issues and speaking of the redefining of the word ‘feminism’ today.
See some of her interviews/speeches below:
The history of the International Women’s Day is one century long. The idea came originally from the United States, where the women of the Socialist Party of America (SPA), founded in 1908 a National Women’s Committee, which resolved to create a separate national day to initiate the day of women’s suffrage. This first Women’s Day in the U.S. took place in February 1909 and was a resounding success, ending in a demonstration for women’s right to vote.
The US-American May Wood-Simons brought the idea for such a day to the Second International Socialist Women’s Conference on 27. August 1910 in Copenhagen. The German socialist Clara Zetkin and Kate Duncker, forced the decision of its creation. The Decision in Copenhagen sounded:
“In consultation with the class-conscious political and trade union
Organizations of the proletariat in their country the socialist women of all countries organize each
Year a Women’s Day, the first line of agitation used for women’s suffrage. […] The Women’s Day must have a international character. “
The first Women’s Day has been celebrated on 19 March 1911 in Denmark, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Switzerland.
WeAreEquals.org found a very effective way of creating a focus on the gender issues in UK – and worldwide. In the short video, Daniel Craig as Agent 007 – and an ultimate man – is being confronted with the reality of being of male gender in the society…:
We are in 2011 and a man is still more likely to earn more money than a woman. You have far more chances to enter political office or become a company director. And hardly any chance to become a victim of sexual assault. There will m´be no risk to lose your career if you become a parent.
…. and then being confronted with the statistics for women worldwide while he visually transforms in one:
Women are responsible for 2/3 work done worldwide – yet earn only 10 % of total income and own 1% of the property. Every year 70 millon of girls are deprived of even a basic education. And 60 million are sexually assaulted on their way to school. At least 1 of 4 (women) are victims of domestic violence.
“Nadeshiko Sushi is the only sushi place in Japan with an all female staff of sushi chefs – and it’s causing quite a stir. For hundreds of years the revered art of sushi making like sumo and kabuki has been reserved only for men. The craft is traditionally passed down in families from generation to generation.'”
The idea of creating a sushi restaurant with all female chefs is compared to a blasphemy in traditional Japan. But Nadeshiko Sushi’s male owner says that he wants to create a new model for working Japanese women, to challenge the female stereotypes in business. See the whole story made by The Wall Street Journal.
On the first day of Women’s month – March – The White House has released a study on women in the USA, about their pay, careers and home lives. Only one time before a similar study has been made – under the presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963.
The study has been made in collaboration with the Council on Women and Girls, the Office of Management and Budget and the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Department of Commerce, compiling the information on how women are faring in the United States today and how these trends have changed over time. The report provides a statistical portrait showing how women’s lives are changing in five areas:
People, Families, and Income
Crime and Violence
The Danish women over 40 has recently got the voice of their own. The initiative ‘Primetime Kvinder’ has been introduced at the end of 2010 and gained a broad popularity online. The idea has been born after a group of chief editors of the Danish press house ALLER had an inspiring seminar with Marti Barletta, the author of the bestseller ‘PrimeTime Women™: How to Win the Hearts, Minds, and Business of Boomer Big Spenders’ about marketing to women over 40.
ALLER’s editors were surprised by the fact that the Danish advertisers active in the media industry were almost indifferent for the target group of women over 40. At the same time it was clear that according to the statistics, the group of consumers over 40 years old was the one with the most of purchase power in the contrary to the younger group of consumers with significantly less money and grow potential.
Were there some bad habits from the past that were automatically implemented by the advertisers? or maybe their lack of knowledge was the reason for this behavior?
Whatever it was, for Aller’s editors the time has come to change that fact.
Pernille Aalund, the editing director in ALLER, Danish media personality and creator of one of the most popular women magazines ‘Q’, created a manifesto for the Primetime Kvinder initiative, based on the direct imput of members of the soon created facebook page:
Listen… we are the generations of women who are not getting old, but who divide their lives in phases. One day we are going to die, but before we are in the grave – we are ON! We are stronger and wiser than any time before. We do not want our opportunities to be taken away from us. We would like to live the life we choose, we would like to love the men we desire, we would like to spend the money we earn and we would like to be respected for what we achieve.
Do I sound angry? I am. But most of all, I am surprised. Never before in the history of the humankind the women in their 40-, 50- and 60-ies have been so healthy, so active, so wealthy, so well educated and so powerful – but it looks like they simply haven’t been understood by the world they are living in!
The initiative, now collaborating with one of the most popular Danish tabloids B.T., has its mission to change the Danish media behavior to reflect the needs of one of the most important – and at the same time most underestimated consumer groups: namely, women over 40.
As we read in B.T. by Benja Stig Fagerland, CEO of TalentTuning and Co-founder of House of Womenomics™:
The Danish businesses are slowly opening their eyes for the fact that women play the crucial role for the bottom line of their sales. The end has come to the era, where the media, the advertisers and the product development teams can longer afford to ignore the needs of women who have passed their 40th birthday.
In case someone has any doubts, the statistics show that the women over 40 have the charm, the self confidence – and the fantastic hair. And, what is more, they also have the wallet which is heavier than any time before and only the companies, who understand how to serve the women’s needs, got their money.
They found a tool to make the international headlines. The Ukrainian women’s movement FEMEN is continuing their protests and happenings for gender equality and women’s rights in the most attractive way for the global visual media: topless.
Recently, as we read in The Sydney Morning Herald, their anger was directed towards the New Zealand male-oriented The Rock FM radio competition called “Win a Wife”, offering a 12-night trip to Ukraine organised by a bride agency.
As we read, Femen’s members wear little but flower garlands for frequent protests against Ukraine’s sex industry and targeting of Ukrainian women by international agencies that organise sex tours.
The FEMEN’s message was clearly stated by Olexandra Shevchenko from the organization: “Ukraine is not a brothel and Ukrainian women are not prostitutes.”….
The discussion on gender quotas continues at the moment in almost all European countries, the newest oppinion about it is given by Maria Reinertsen, a Norwegian economist, journalist and author of the book Ligningen for Lykke (The Equation of happiness). Recently in guardian.co.uk she writes about the experience with quotas in Norway:
When the Norwegian parliament finally decided to make gender quotas mandatory for the boards of publicly listed companies in November 2003, it came as no big surprise. After all, Norway has gender quotas everywhere, from children’s councils in schools up to government ministers. The surprise was that the person who championed the mandatory quotas was a male minister from our Conservative party. Ansgar Gabrielsen, then minister of business, told the newspaper Verdens Gang that he was “fed up with the male dominance in the Norwegian boardrooms”.
But the most interesting point she makes is about the fact that the gender quotas are non existent in the private enterprises, and in the public sector the percentage of women is never bigger than mandatory:
In non-public companies, the number of women is still far below 40% – and there is no branch of industry where the rate of women is higher than the mandatory 40%. If not forced to by law, companies don’t recruit women.
So Reinertsen conclusion is clear:
Mandatory quotas are bureaucratic, they hurt both the pride of women and the freedom of business. But if you genuinely want more women in the boards, it’s probably the only way to achieve it.