Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Women's Day

My workplace had an event today for International Women's Day: there were 30 of us in a room in London, and then groups of the same size or smaller in about 12 other locations around Europe. We had a video call going round the locations, and we were asked what our reaction was to having the event at all, and some questions about various issues within the organisation. We discussed them and then had another video call with someone at each office feeding back whatever we'd said.

International Women's Day isn't widely known or celebrated here, although it's a public holiday in quite a few countries and a relatively big thing. I knew about it but I didn't know that this was its hundredth year; it was first celebrated in 1911.

Anyway I haven't got anything particular to say about it except that it was fun and quite interesting and some senior managers heard things they needed to hear, which was the point of the exercise as far as the company was concerned. What I got out of it was taking a little time to think about some things. Not so much about my own relationship with my employer, which is a very satisfactory one, although it's possible that the company and I could both get more out of each other if some things were different. But about the sort of big ideas this celebration brings to mind.

Take a moment to think about whenever you have been expected to be or think or act a certain way simply because you were a man, or because you were a woman, and have felt guilty or selfconscious or conflicted when you did not.

Take a moment to ask yourself when your affairs have been disregarded - especially by you - simply because they were your affairs and not someone else's, without any fair-minded assessment of their merits or importance.

Take a moment to consider whether advancement, recognition, respect, and remuneration in your place of work are based on skill, honesty, intelligence, fair dealing, or anything a sane human being would value, or whether they are based on the degree of submission to an abusive relationship with the employer; one that classifies the disregard of human relationships and human values as a badge of loyalty, while the smallest non-submission to the employer's expressed or unexpressed demands, no matter how capricious, cruel, pointless, unimportant or even criminal they are, is a shameful disaster.

My workplace does not have this common disease, or at least not very much or very badly.

One of the things that came up in discussion today was that, just by being women, we often escape falling for that particular swindle because we don't feel the social duty to fall for it. We also escape the recognition, respect, and remuneration, because our decision tends to be that it is worth it. There are other swindles we fall for more.

I would like men to consider that they also have these choices - in theory, at least. And if the choice is not there in practice, then I would like them to think about why.


Andreas said...

Well said.

maya said...

Now if that could be extended to other areas...

Elizabeth Brinton said...

Very thought provoking questions. Thanks