The Fight for Gender Equity is not a Woman’s Fight.
As a woman, in the course of my lifetime I will help contribute to 66% of the world’s working hours, but earn 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property.
As a woman, I will make 77 cents to every dollar a man earns for the same work.
As a woman, I will make up 4% of C-Suite positions, but will represent 52% of the global workforce.
As a woman, I will have 468 bills passed controlling what I can and cannot do with my body in a single year as compared to the 0 bills passed for my male counterparts.
And as a woman, I will be told that to fix these inequities, I just need to lean in a bit more.
But the truth is that leaning in does nothing for the majority of the world’s women, most notably the poorest of us, as we face gross structural inequities that can’t be solved by embracing discomfort or a 45 degree arch of the body.
What women need is to stop giving into discomfort, to stop leaning in and bending over backwards to change a society built on pillars of injustice. We’ve too readily accepted that change should be carried on our backs alone.
Instead, women need men to help fight this fight.
The fight for gender equity is not one that ‘half the sky’ can fight, nor is it one that will resolve itself by women — the side that has the least power and privilege — pushing against men, who rather enjoy their power and privilege.
The truth is that men do have more power, they have more resources, and they have unparalleled global influence. And thus, they represent the group with the highest likelihood of success in truly making gender equity a reality.
This is not to say women don’t have a role — we do — it’s just to say it’s possibly different than what we originally envisioned.
Women’s roles begin with believing we deserve equity. Upward of 90% of women in Uganda believe violence against women is justifiable as compared to 70% of men who believe the same. This is unacceptable.
As women, we must recognize and internalize the belief that we truly deserve better.
Women also must help themselves and men better understand how gender equity benefits all of society, not just it’s women. Research shows that in countries with gender equity, both men and women have higher quality of life, including lower rates of depression, violent death, and divorce. In companies with more women in top leadership there are direct and measurable improvements in the company’s performance.
The case is there, we just need to make it known.
Lastly, women’s role is to realize that we simply cannot do it alone. The road to justice cannot be paved with the commitment of only half the world.
We need to begin a collective movement by seeing men not as perpetrators of injustice, but as allies in correcting injustice.
So as we mark yet another International Women’s Day, let us not think about how we can better empower women to lean in, speak up, or seek out change. Instead, let’s think about how we can more concertedly make this a fight by all — not just by some — and how we can flip the paradigm to see men as our allies instead of our enemies as we build a world that’s better for all.