Today is International Women’s Day, and every year I like to write a special post to celebrate and bring awareness to this very important day.
Does it have anything to do with personal finance? Actually, yes. It has everything to do with personal finance! Because at the end of the day, a big part of the current fight for gender equality has to do with equal pay and equal career advancement (something us women are still fighting for).
Personally, I feel like International Women’s Day has never been more important than right now. With the momentum of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it’s both an exciting and heartbreaking time to be a feminist.
And yes, I am a feminist. A word, that for whatever reason, has been one that many women shy away from. Not because they don’t believe in gender equality (I hope anyway), but because they’re afraid that by labelling themselves feminists, they’ll also be labelling themselves “man haters.”
What Exactly Is Feminism?
Let’s straighten something up real quick, because this is something I actually studied in my university days. Feminism doesn’t mean pro-women and anti-men. It means being part of a movement that is fighting for gender parity.
Still need some convincing? Well, here’s how feminism is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests
Hmm…nothing mentioning women hating men, women thinking they are better than men, or feminists being a bunch of bra-burning lesbians. Because that’s not what feminism is about. It’s about equality and equal rights for both genders.
To get into the background of feminism a bit more for some context, it’s actually broken into 4 different waves.
First Wave (1830s – early 1900s)
The first wave of feminism had a big focus on women gaining the right to vote as well as property rights. This is also known as suffrage, and a great example of this time period can be seen in the 2015 film Suffragette.
Many of us women have only experienced a world in which we do have the right to vote, so it seems almost impossible to imagine anything different.
To give you some perspective though, here’s a list of countries with the year women gained the right to vote. It’s pretty shocking to see that 102 years ago, Canadian women were not allowed to vote. Even more shocking is seeing that it’s been less than a century since American women were given the right to vote. These numbers also don’t reflect the dates in which women of colour or indigenous women were allowed to vote (which in most cases were much later).
- New Zealand – 1893
- Australia – 1902
- Canada – 1917
- United States – 1920
- United Kingdom & Ireland – 1928
- France – 1944
- India – 1950
- Switzerland – 1971
- South Africa – 1994
- Saudi Arabia – 2011
Second Wave (late 1950s – 1980s)
The second wave of feminism focused more on equal rights in the workplace, traditional gender roles and reproductive rights. It’s also when the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed in the United States.
Third Wave (1990s – 2012)
The third wave of feminism focused on diversity, individualism, abolishing gender role stereotypes, and using the Internet to get these messages across on a broader scale.
Fourth Wave (2012 – Present)
And here we are, in the fourth wave of feminism. A big reason for this current wave is the emergence and popularity of social media. Just look at the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. They’re hashtags, and sprung to popularity largely over Twitter. This fourth wave has a large focus on sexual harassment, rape culture and violence against women.
Press for Progress: Why It’s the Theme for International Women’s Day 2018
Alright, so that is a brief history of feminism (something I never thought I’d write on the blog, but so glad I found an opportunity to share!). The reason I wanted to share this info with you is because it does set a good foundation for all the different movements going on right now, as well as the theme for 2018’s International Women’s Day — Press for Progress.
We’ve Come a Long Way Baby, But Not Far Enough
What Press for Progress means is that this year is the year to truly press for progress. With the release of the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, I think we should all be dissatisfied with the data that shows gender parity is 217 years away. I don’t want to be rotting in the ground before this is a reality! I want to be alive for it!
The fact that in 2018, Canadian women still earn $0.87 for every dollar a man earns (according to Stats Canada) is unacceptable. Sure, there has been a ton of progress, considering that number was $0.77 in 1981, but there’s still a ways to go.
My Personal Experience with Gender Inequality
The most heartbreaking thing about this is when I was a young girl, I had no idea about any of this. Because I was brought up with two sisters, a strong mother and a father who built us up and told us we could be whatever we wanted when we grew up, I believed that when I was an adult I wouldn’t face the same discrimination as my ancestors. I thought it would be an even playing field.
I didn’t even feel like there was much gender bias in university, and I was 1 of 5 girls in a film program with 20 or so men. Every man in the program never treated me or any of the other women any different than the male students. Maybe it was because we were all liberal art kids, but it was honestly a beautiful time of my life.
Then, I entered the workforce. I would say within a month I noticed a big shift. Women were treated different. The strong, confident women were considered crazy, bossy or hard to work with. The women who said “Yes” to every task given, who never stood up for themselves, flirted for attention or didn’t rock-the-boat by sharing their personal opinions were considered friendly, fun and likeable.
In my 20s and in the early stages of my career, I felt conflicted. I wanted to grow into a strong, confident leader, but I also didn’t want to be hated by my peers. Couldn’t I be strong and likeable?
Also, why was I always getting passed for promotions and raises? At almost every job I’ve ever had, a male counterpart would get a raise or promotion ahead of me, even though they had less education, less experience or put less effort into their job. Every time I asked for a raise or promotion, I would be given a fraction of what I asked for. As for promotions, well, I’ve never gotten a promotion in my entire career. I’ve only been able to go up a level in seniority and pay grade by switching employers.
One experience I’ll never forget is being given extra work by a male co-worker (who was technically a level up from my position, but was in no way my boss). At the time, I took it as an opportunity to broaden my skill set. Little did I know that he would take credit for all of my hard work and was thanked in the form of a raise and promotion. Looking back, I wish I spoke up more. But at the time, I was in my early 20s and thought being a good employee on an upward trajectory meant keeping my head down and producing good work. Unfortunately, that’s not what gets you ahead ladies.
What I’m Doing to Change Things
Hence, why I’m now self-employed. I’ve been my own boss for over a year, and finally feel like, for once in my life, I’m respected in what I do. I get to call the shots. And most importantly, I get to earn as much as I want (a goal I happily crushed last year by outearning my old job’s salary).
But, even though I am self-employed, that doesn’t mean I haven’t dealt with discrimination. Certainly not to the level it was when working in the corporate world. But it still pops up every once in a while.
Luckily, because I am my own boss and am very protective of the business and brand I’ve built over the years, I feel more confident in speaking up when I need to. But it can still feel scary and even risky to do so. If I speak up, it could mean one of my clients leaves or I lose out on a lucrative contract.
I also know that if I don’t speak up for myself, no one else will. If I want to earn more, I need to ask for more. If I want a seat at the table, I need to demand a seat at the table (not wait to be asked to sit down). If I want to keep outearning my old job’s salary and provide a solid financial future for myself, I need to ignore all the haters that call me a sell-out because they have no idea how I run my business, what I say no to on a daily bass (I get a lot of legitimately sketchy pitches), or what I’ve accomplished to get where I am today.
But this isn’t just a fight for myself. I’m also doing what I can to help other women have a bigger voice too. That’s why I make a concerted effort to have a good balance of women guests on the Mo’ Money Podcast. That’s why I always make sure there are an equal number of women speakers at my Millennial Money Meetups. That’s why I shut down any sexist talk in my Facebook group. And it’s why I will never try to dim another woman’s light, just so mine can burn brighter.
On this International Women’s Day, I vow to continue to do more to press for progress. Time’s up, and we need to make way for a brighter, more equal future. I hope you decide to join me in this fight. ✊