Happy International Women’s Day 2020! It’s safe to assume that the celebrations will not end here, but will instead continue for at least another week! It certainly does seem like we are doing a lot for women nowadays, especially with feminist movements on the rise. While it is indeed heartwarming and rallying, a significant gender gap still exists between males and females despite all the campaigning. Why?
Even in supposedly advanced, educated and aware countries, organisations and the such, sometimes women are still being treated as “less than”, or an afterthought. The very first example that comes to mind is unequal pay. Globally, women on average still earn less than men, and experts predict it could take more than 200 years (from now!) to close this gap. In many areas, families would rather their sons go to school, and have daughters stay home to help out domestically. While it may not sound like the worst, not having an education could potentially result in the girls not having skills to prepare them for the world. In turn, that results in less participation in the workforce, or representation (political or otherwise).
Gender Norms, Roles & Stereotypes
“Women belong in the kitchen.” “Men are better drivers than women.” These are just some exaggerated gender stereotypes, and most likely not being used very often, but they exist all the same. Gender norms and roles have been around since the beginning, and they have shaped and influenced the way we behave so much without us even noticing it. Males and females are expected to possess certain qualities and behave in certain ways specific to their gender, and this is restrictive towards gender equality. For example, women are still expected to be the caregiver more than men, which stems from the belief that women are more caring and nurturing than men.
Lack Of Support (Especially In The Workforce)
There are many roles a woman is expected to take on, and oftentimes she doesn’t mind. But the least to do for women is to provide more support. Take the previous example of caregiving. Women are expected to care for their children, but the workforce isn’t supportive of this. Advocates are pushing for paid family leave policies, which guarantee parents to the right to take paid time off of work to care for their children. Women lose more money than men as a whole when they leave the workforce to care for children. With better paid leave policies, women can then remain in the workforce longer and have a higher-earning career, which traditionally is thought of as “for men”. Not to mention we could do better in supporting expectant/new mothers as well.
Actions & Attitudes
We think we women are doing pretty well advocating for ourselves, but it’s not entirely our world. As we share the world with another gender – the men – their actions and attitudes go a long way in making or breaking “gender equality”. Probably one of the most common issues in “attitudes” is women’s sexualisation in the media, which incidentally is the third most pressing issue Malaysian women face. Instead of leaving us to advocate alone, men can actively participate in helping the cause of gender equality. Speak up when there’s unfair treatment. Treat everyone with respect. Give credit where it’s due. And do not rest till we attain complete gender equality. Which by the by, no country in the world has totally achieved yet.
Gender Equality In Malaysia
According to a survey done last year, we Malaysians aren’t that informed about gender equality, or the gender pay gap in particular. But TLDR, at least 67% of participants agreed that we should have laws to prevent a gender pay gap. However, between men and women, women still find the issue more unjust and pressing. (Of course lah, who wants to get paid less?) While there are more girls than boys enrolled in schools, education does not mean equal opportunities and empowerment once students leave school. Females in Malaysia still do not have equal economic opportunities and political empowerment when it comes down to it. Most Malaysians support achieving gender equality, but also think that we have done enough thus far. (Really?)
We would love to give each and every woman a hug and pat on the back, and to congratulate each other on coming so far. However, equality still remains an abstract concept far from our grasp, and we think we should definitely still do our part in promoting and practicing gender equality as much as possible. What’s your take on gender equality, especially in Malaysia? Do you think men and women can ever be equal? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!
The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachforEqual. Find out more by visiting their website!