Balance & Equity

Opinion:

On International Women’s Day the first thing that comes to mind for me as a woman is that I am lucky to be one, at this particular time in history, born in this country, with the level of social, economic, cultural, political, and relational freedom that so many of us now have.

While it’s true that we have a long way to go before women feel that society treats them fairly and equitably, today is an excellent day to, if you’re able to, honour the women in your life, feel and speak gratitude for all of the positive impact they’ve had, the effort they’ve contributed and their enduring love, compassion, and strength.

Equity

Notice that I use the word “equitably” rather than equally. Factually speaking, each gender is different for a myriad of reasons I won’t go into here. Seeking equality has been proven repeatedly to be almost impossible, and not nearly as beneficial to anybody.

Considering the meme that circulated last year showing a fence with a view to a sports field, equality is giving each spectator a box of the same size so they can stand on top and see over the fence, but this doesn’t take into account each individual’s height.

Original idea created by Craig Froehle

So, while people who are tall or “average” height might benefit well from the box to stand on, someone who is short will get a boost, but not necessarily equal access to the game.

Equity means that each person is recognized for their own circumstances, and we work together to ensure everyone gets the right sized box to stand on to allow us an equal view. In other words, rather than providing equal resources to everyone, we work towards equal results. I could write pages on this, and others more knowledgeable than I certainly have. For the purposes of this article, I would suggest researching the concepts of equity, equality, and human rights if you have questions.

Balance

In celebrating women today, the aim is not to raise women above men and their contributions, conditions or needs. Celebrating one group of people, does not have to necessitate denigrating others. As a matter of fact, as a woman who is married to a man, who is raising 2 men and 2 young women, I am made aware daily of the very real need for improvement and equity to occur, for the safety and benefit of women all over the world, and for the flow on benefit to the men they interact with. What is painfully clear is that no one wins if anyone, men, women or other loses.

Any one group experiencing oppression, exclusion or inequity will inevitably begin to behave differently, and the general rule of thumb for all humans is that, psychologically, we respond in the ways that we instinctively feel will protect us the most because we’re hardwired to place self-protection higher than almost anything in list of what we value.

Even if our self-protection betrays our other values, we will not only pursue behaviour that supports our perception of safety and wellbeing, but we will also find, over time, that our values change in response to ongoing lack of balance in our lives. So, for any gender group feeling the effects of this lack of equity, society will, over time, notice a shift in values and behaviours as the humans in that group react to this equity by pushing back.

This might paint a bleak picture of the futility of trying to seek balance. If one group of people is pushing back, won’t that cause inequity for the others? Fortunately, this does not have to be the case. There is an increasing movement in the world for both women’s and men’s groups to realise that it is in no one’s best interests to raise one group up at the expense of another, and in fact, logically, if we are all given the right and lifestyle expectation that we can choose our roles in the world, it will be of benefit to everyone.

As an example, where women have the choice to further her career without being penalised for having children, or more accurately, with the same expectations placed on them as a similarly qualified man, and a man is also supported and cherished for taking an equitable role in supporting his working partner and raising his children, it stands to reason that both women and men will benefit. In this environment, they can collaborate to provide for their families and raise them, and certainly children will thrive with the knowledge that they have both parents available to them, leading the way.

This might seem idealistic, and certainly the example above only covers heterosexual families with children, but it is not difficult to see how these emerging attitudes towards equity can be extrapolated to the advantage of almost every style of family and each individual. We have a long way to go, all over the world, in order to get to this level of equity, but it’s certainly something to strive for.

Women Today

I’m not an expert on all women and their circumstances. I haven’t formally studied women’s studies, and the older and more experienced I become, the more I realize that I know only a small amount of the world, and I am just as subject to bias, both conscious and unconscious, as the next person. I certainly can’t claim that my musings here take into account all factors, lifestyles, and external influences.

What I am aiming for though, is to use my time today to consider the great strength, love, and determination that women have and give to the world. Today is an excellent opportunity to meditate on how the empowerment and encouragement of women helps all of society flourish.

We are, in general, a powerhouse of creation, support, knowledge and wisdom that has so much to offer the world. Today is a day to be proud of that, of the work that women all over the world have done to improve their own position and to positively lift up others.

I am incredibly lucky to have some wonderful, clever, resourceful, wise, and beautiful women in my life. I have seen some unfortunate negativity in women, but I am lucky in my specific sphere, to be surrounded by acquaintances, friends and family who lift each other up to greater heights rather than climbing on each other’s backs to feel better about themselves. Today of all days, I urge both men and women to look for this in their own lives, and if you can find an example of a woman who has impacted you or the world around them for the better, just hold on to that positive thought and let it seep in. Let that goodness, strength and love build up in you too. This way we will all have it in us to work together and improve the lives of many.