My blog, about having it all (www.haveitall.net.au), is really about professional women being able to find happiness and fulfilment, and to have equal opportunities and rights. Having it all, for me, is not about keeping up with having the latest gadgets, the cleanest house with the best interior design, having the perfect children that have a million extra-curricular activities, and having an amazing career with financial success. Some of those things may be what you want, and may make you happy. But having it all is not a competition. It’s about personal satisfaction with your life, not comparison with others.
Having it all means having what you truly want, not what you think other people want or think you should have. So in 2017, what I really want for you, and all women, is an increased equality in society. I want to see equal opportunities in workplaces and education for women and girls. I no longer want girls believing that they don’t have the same rights and opportunities as their male peers. I want to see women paid equally to men for the same job. I don’t want women to be victimised, but to be strong and confidence, and to be able to step for in the world assertively. I want to see women have a clearer voice that is actually heard and respected by men, instead of dismissed.
Equality is not something we need to fight men for, or wait to be handed by men either. Gender equality issues exist for men too, in our general desire to be accepted for who we are, instead of having to meet gender stereotypes. So in wanting equality, we need to acknowledge the unique traits and talents of each individual, and not expect that everyone be treated exactly the same, but for everyone to be treated equitably. This means actually having the same rights and opportunities to everyone, regardless of their background, gender, race, sexual orientation. None of those traits should not close doors, and we should have the same freedom of choice as everyone else.
Discrimination and stereotypes
It often seems that some women are far closer than others to equality, and this is because discrimination and gender biases is often perpetuated within cultures or certain economic backgrounds. Some women have biased expectations placed on them about they should and should not do, depending on their culture or community – they must marry and have children, they cannot seek further education, or have to work in certain caring or lower paying roles within their community than males. Other women are more privileged, in that they don’t experience certain challenges, so we really can’t judge or belittle the experiences of other women. Women should not hate on other women. We need to encourage and support one another, and open up opportunities for each other. But at the same time, respect choices that other women make due to reasons that we may not understand. We need to be supportive, but realise that it may take a few more generations for deep gender biases to be overcome.
For those more privileged women who are forging the way into roles typically reserved for males, we need to seek equal pay. There is no country in the world where women are paid equally as men in the same roles, across all industries. On average in Australia, the pay gap is about 14%. However, in the legal industry, which is the industry in which I work, the average pay gap is about 35%. Unfortunately, particularly for female barristers, the pay gap is sometimes more than 100%, with many female barristers reporting their average income at only $60,000! Valuing women and paying them equally starts not only with the employers, but also with ourselves. We often do not believe we provide as much value as we can, or we don’t actively seek higher compensation, whereas men do not appear to have a problem with this. In fact, a lot of men often over-value themselves, in my opinion! Remember, women are often far more capable than men, and you know it yourself in many aspects of your life, so why can we not be assertive and articulate about the value we provide to get adequate compensation for ourselves?
These are the things I wish for you and for all women in 2017.