Perhaps it is Global Goal 5: Gender Equality that offers one of the biggest opportunities for this to happen. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets are interconnected, and there is a lot of potential for cross pollination.
If we want to move forward together, we can’t leave half of the population behind. If we neglect to embrace and empower females across the globe, we are at risk of doing just that. March 8th brings the issue of equality to the forefront, and gives the globe a chance to celebrate the progress to date.
Gender equality isn’t a two sided issue though. It is very profound, and we need to look at a situation as a whole rather than just one side, or the other. If we are choosing a woman over a man – or vice versa – simply because of their gender, we end up selling ourselves short. We need to look at a person, not their gender, colour, race, culture, or any other attribute that makes us different from one and other.
There are two candidates for a position that has been historically filled by men. The final interview comes around and two applicants are left standing, a woman, and a man. While the man has great qualifications, and a well-known family tree, his contributions are limited to completing tasks that have been done in the past, executed to perfection.
The woman has her Masters instead of a PhD, and the interviewers have a hard time pronouncing her last name. However, when she talks about her innovative ideas, she lights up with passion, and it’s contagious.
Even though a man has historically filled the position, and is better qualified on paper, the woman is the better candidate to initiate change, and progress strategically in an ever changing market place.
Imagine how many times this has happened throughout history: men being selected over women simply because that’s how it’s been in the past – so in the decision maker’s eyes – it’s the safest bet.
Old School Mentality
If only it were that simple. It’s not though. The issue goes far beyond an old boy’s club mentality. Century after century women have been treated as second class citizens for one unjust reason, or another.
How can we progress if we are undervaluing, or worse, leaving half of our nation behind? While men and women are not created equal, we have every right to equality.
We have equal right to safety, education, health care, casting a vote, driving, walking with shorts on, and going topless without being gawked at. As women we have the right to receive an equal wage to our colleagues and counterparts in the workplace, and equal opportunity to sit at the boardroom table. The list goes on for miles of areas where men and women have still not achieved equality.
All Jokes Aside
I admit, from time to time I have made jokes or comments about how women are better than men. Although I may not call myself a feminist, I identify with many of the issues that are voiced thanks to the feminist movement. I believe that feminism holds a lot of value, and is a reflection of the inequality that our gender faces simply because of our biological make up. I stand up for women’s rights, and defend gender equality, but I do not want to risk swinging things from one side to the other by supporting only women, and calling that equality.
It is overwhelmingly obvious that women worldwide need to be respected, down to Mother Earth we live and walk on. Men are capable of defending women’s rights just as well as a woman, and by not empowering both genders we may lose the opportunity for equality.
As a society it would wonderful to admit that we need each other. As human beings, beyond any differentiating attributes, we can stand in solidarity. Respect where the other is coming from, their heritage, and history, but to do so we need to look beyond the surface.
For a community, nation, continent, or hemisphere to move forward in a sustainable way, we need more female leaders as well as more male leaders that will walk the talk when it comes to gender equality.
As with all of the 17 SDGs, we have an opportunity to make history here. Let’s not make the mistake of leaving anyone behind. On March 8th – and every day after – let’s embrace, empower, and celebrate women worldwide, for we are all in this together.
“The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.”
~Charles Habib Malik
I’d love to hear what you think about this topic & learn about initiatives in your community. Please feel free to comment below or on Twitter.