Feminism Break the Bias this International Women's Day #IWD2022
#BreakTheBias #IWD2022 #InternationalWomensDay

Bias against women is all around us. Bias is systemic, structural, social, cultural and political. Bias against women can be seen in the cultural idea that childcare is a woman's problem, and is realised in systemic and structural bias by not providing paternity leave equal to maternity leave. It is further cemented by the refusal by governments to recognise that child care should be subsidised forcing an ideological viewpoint that women's worth comes from being a stay at home Mum. Because of the cultural idea that children are a woman's domain, women are left economically and socially disadvantaged, with reduced life-chances ranging from lack of super, to the inability to leave violent relationships due to lack of economic means. Australia is very far behind the rest of the western world in gender equity - we rank 50th globally, with NZ at 4th place, UK 23rd, Canada 24th, and USA at 30th, and we fall on average five places each year. The new rankings will be out this month, and to be honest, I'm bracing myself as it is unlikely to be good. The most drastic drops in rankings have been under the Abbott and Morrison governments, which matches their lack of investment in women budget-wise, and the lack of representation of women MPs in their governments.

Disadvantage can also be found in business where there are more ASX 200 CEO's named John than there are women CEO's. Women are more highly educated than men, yet there is no reflection of this in business job ranking. More and more women have turned to contract or casual work, or starting their own businesses - simply because they cannot get hired in the positions they deserve. And while this can seem like a good thing in the short term, small business ownership is hard, stressful and precarious - as we have all seen during the past couple of years. Small business networks often favour men over women both subconsciously and consciously (which is why ShireWomen exists) which places even more pressure on women business owners, who need to create relationships with other businesses to survive. Furthermore, gender stereotyping in Australia makes women feel they need to compete with one another rather than work together, which creates major issues when it comes to business relationships - especially if women don't realise they've been socialised into this way of thinking. When in-fighting becomes the focus, we take our eyes of the equity goal, and we don't progress. The research shows that all of these factors place women one step away from poverty, of which women are the fastest growing demographic. Despite this, the last federal budget dedicated only 0.6% of funding to helping women, in any capacity.

Bias can also be found culturally where children are taught gender-norms at school and thus, girls end up gravitating to caring roles such as nursing, teaching or beauty (which pay low wages), and boys into business, science and engineering (which pay high wages). This is despite vast research showing that gender is a social construct, and therefore women are not naturally caring or patient in any capacity more than men are, and men are not naturally more analytical or assertive than women (see a book called Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine if you are interested in learning more).

Bias is also social, in that children are taught that girls should look pretty, be polite, and boys should be tough and macho. The cultural idea that 'boys with be boys' is nothing more than excusing behaviour that has become a social norm due to the sex of a person. It has no basis in nature or biology. It is nothing more than giving boys a free pass to act a certain way, but if girls act the same way - they are unbecoming, unladylike, crass or shrill. Conversely, if boys are too "feminine", they can be ostracised, bullied and ridiculed for acting "like a girl". Because, you know, girls are just the worst.

Further, when people get into adult relationships, women do the majority of housework and childcare, even if they work full time. Women are paid less in like-for-like work, not because they don't ask for pay rises, but because of plain and simple gender bias. Bias is in media, schooling, politics, religion, legislation and more. Nothing will change if we continue to ignore it or continue to argue within ourselves that it doesn't matter because it doesn't impact us personally, or to place change as "someone else's job". It impacts all of us - from the medical treatment we receive to the clients who are willing to work with women. It's everywhere.

It everyone's job to call out bias and demand change. Remember, Australia is a culture of conformity - meaning that if people don't actively demand change, nothing will actually change.

It's been a tough year for all of us, and if there are any take-aways to be had from the pandemic and the ever more horrific problems women face in politics, it's that we are at a crucial point in time where change is not merely a want, it is an absolute NEED.

Our recommendations are:

  • Call out bias when you see it - in media, politics, social media, and in your personal life.
  • Ask your workplace if they have a gender pay gap policy, and if not, demand they create one.
  • In the upcoming federal election, vote for women, and ensure you aren't voting against your own interests. Look at party websites and their policy aims (not the media take-aways or speeches by one party claiming another party is going to do x, y, z) and vote on policies that are looking to solve issues that impact you. If the last few years have taught us anything, it's that people do not read party policy before voting and are often surprised to learn they voted for something they fundamentally disagree with. Remember - women deserve to be in positions of power where the big decisions are being made, and we have the power as voters, to get them there.
  • Write to your MP and ask what they are doing to tackle the gender-gap, and demand to know why the government repeatedly ignore women in their budget.
  • Don't read or buy newspapers that frame women as bitchy, shrill airheads, that comment on women's clothing, or use traditional gender norms to belittle them. If they do, send a letter to the editor, and comment on social media posts, showing you dissent.
  • Support initiatives that are actively trying to make positive changes for women.
  • Demand your children's school actively avoid gender stereotyping in their teaching practices. We know that gender stereotyping impacts children at aged six, and is predominantly cemented at school.
  • Discuss with your family the importance of gender equity.
  • Check yourself! We all fall into the trap of gender stereotyping women and men.

Be the change we all need! #BreakTheBias