While Switzerland is celebrating the 50th anniversary of female voting rights, it is a good time to reflects on what it means today to be a feminist. When Feminin Pluriel was founded in 1992, based on the simple statement “Together, we are stronger”, there were hardly any option for professional women to regroup, support each other, build up their network and advance their careers. In 2021, Feminin Pluriel has become one of many active women’s organizations, representing a diversity of profiles, positioning and goals.
At the edge of the International Women’s Day, what does be a feminist mean today? While some individuals and organizations still derive their actions from ideologies, some are more aligned with a pragmatic approach, based on data, inclusiveness and dialogue. None of these approaches is better or more legit than the other. Diversity and acceptance are welcome in the land of equality claim. Building on the of legacy of pioneers, feminism today is fired by an equal goal to empower women, driven by an even larger ambition and served by a different set of tools.
Never complain, better explain
When one says: “Women provide most of the children and household care. This inequality starts early in life, and results in longer workdays for women than for men”, it sounds like a sad cliché which leaves us all powerless. What about: “In advanced economies, men do just 34% of the unpaid work that women do, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization data show that this imbalance starts early, with girls spending 30% more of their time on unpaid work than boys. On average, women work 50 minutes more per day than men, in terms of both paid and unpaid work combined, according to the data.”
There is power in facts, unshakable power. And there is hope. Because by monitoring these topics, we are now able to see trends, and these trends are often encouraging. Data allows to anticipate the number of years (sometimes decades) before the equality is achieved, or the problem solved, if we just “let it happen organically”. Data allows to measure the efficiency of public and corporate policies, and take action accordingly.
When figures demonstrate a receding trend, after a positive track record, it raises a red flag. See the consequences of the pandemic on professional women. International organizations and research institutes have disclosed multiple studies showing the impact of the pandemic on women, when home and the workplace are under the same roof.
“Women in the Workplace 2020”, the largest comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America lauched in 2015 by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn
The label “feminist” belongs to all
Feminists are all kinds of people, including an exponential number of men who proudly label themselves as feminists. And an even larger segment of the male population who does not feel comfortable with the word, which, from their perspective, is negatively charged by a “women-against-men” narrative. Nevertheless, these men act on daily basis according to their values, and when these values include gender equality, they are in.
But support comes with obligations. As women welcome supporters of all origins and genders, it is their responsibility to pay equal attention to those who are, in a way or another, discriminated. This is particularly obvious in the workplace. Inclusion is not only a nice concept, but an everyday reality. It means, being aware of one’s own bias and actively standing against discriminations based on race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or any other situation that may trigger unfair treatment.
Some argue that the fight for women equality can get dangerously diluted in the vast ambition of inclusion. It is not untrue, but the outcome at stake is 100% worth it.
Sign of the times, the 2021 theme of the International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge: ” We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”
Is feminism working for the common good?
Feminism is no more exclusively a case about women’s rights. It now feeds a multitude of crucial conversations about family, education, work, the evolution of society, the future of the planet, and much more. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 says “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world”. The debate has long left the niche of a “women only” fight. In contributing actively to these crucial conversations, feminists are reshaping the world, not less.
Many feminists today dream of a world where the word “feminism” is in history books, and the International Women’s Day a moment to remember and celebrate the individuals who have done the job. This will be a time where we all share the rights, the power, the pay, the responsibilities, the burden and the freedom.
* World Economic Forum- Strategic Intelligence- Gender parity