There is nothing more interesting than hearing the stories of women, who at some stage in their lives have come across the sudden reality of their minority. It may have been divorce, financial planning or work - but every woman has their story.
In a recent meeting with a colleague, she was asked for her husband’s bank account number when purchasing a car. Another was called a ‘pretty little thing’ during a job interview and questioned why she wanted to change her receptionist role. My own experience on graduating was that men were paid a shifting allowance to move to either Auckland or Christchurch for teacher training. This did not apply to women who were not deemed to be the income earners for the family.
These stories aren’t about men versus women, they are about all of us and our ability to recognise when structures and systems are not equitable. These inequities continue to exert their quiet manipulation on societies worldwide hindering lifelong opportunities for women.
The motivation for change must be focused and for those of us who can, we should question popularist movements swayed by the concept of ‘normality’. This is particularly evident in education where single sexed girls’ education is continually challenged with views that it is not normal life. But who is educating our young women to thrive and celebrate their own leadership space, to flourish with confidence in an environment that empowers them to be academically capable and outstanding in their own right?
It is not normal to ignore the issues of inequity and subsume our young women into a world at a young age where they become inadvertent receivers of the subtleties and social controls that set them up and limit their views of who they can be. Women’s strengths are then called the ‘soft skills’ – a rather demeaning antonym for hard skills that by presumption women aren’t allowed to have.
We can see change in the aspirations and education of women, but it isn’t enough, particularly worldwide. We aren’t doing enough to close persistent income gaps that those silent social structures permit. It takes every one of us to identify the myriad of small things that can make bigger changes, to ensure that every woman has the belief and opportunity to make her mark on the world.