You may be aware that Wednesday was International Women’s Day. A day to reflect on our place in society, to thank the suffragettes and then feminists that have come before us, and to effect change on the many inequalities that continue to plague women in 2017.
I was moved to write this post by two stories I’ve read this week. The first was a blog post written by Rachel Hanson called We Are Women, which talked through her thoughts about womenhood and the many challenges we face.
The second was a story in the New Zealand Herald, detailing the findings of a Human Rights Commission project, finding that there is an average 12% pay gap between men and women. I know we in New Zealand are not experiencing the worst gender pay gap in the world, but for goodness sake! 12%?! It’s beyond outrageous.
It’s worth pointing out here that the gender pay gap is influenced by differences in education, occupations, industries between men and women, and the fact that women are more likely to work part time. But only 20% of the total. The remaining 80% is unaccounted for in any rational way. Even more outrageous!
Worse than the money (at least to my privileged eyes), is that the authors have dubbed this the “motherhood penalty”. In essence, we earn less because we bear children. Pregnancy and motherhood is an often amazing experience, but it’s fair to say I would very happily have shared many of the less pleasant pregnant moments with my husband. Particularly the actual giving birth bit! Especially if my employers had a chat to me about how my income would be compromised because of my impending motherhood.
I’ve always worked in an industry that pays well. I considered myself fortunate to earn the money that I have through the years. But the truth is I know that my male counterparts have been favoured ahead of me.
Prior to having children I was on an upward trajectory, career wise. I was promoted regularly and given salary bumps to reflect the increase in responsibility I was taking on. My clients were prestigious, and I was invited to be a part of management committees and training. I was seen as a future leader.
Then I got pregnant.
The company was brilliant during my pregnancy. I continued to work the way I always had, and they supported me through a few hiccups health wise, which they should be commended for. They also continued to pay me through my maternity leave. The issues started when I returned to work, when my daughter was 6 months old.
I came back to find that my role had completely changed. The seniority I had enjoyed was gone, and I was effectively demoted. I was treated as though my brain could no longer function in the way it once had, now that I was a mother. One of my strengths has always been my ability to build face to face relationships. On my return to work, my role became very much behind the scenes.
When we moved back to New Zealand (the above story was in London), my new employers encouraged an environment where I was belittled for being a mother. I was portrayed as being old and maternal, and teased for having children. I watched as men who had been very much junior to me only 3 years prior suddenly becoming senior management, while my life felt like groundhog day.
The worst was knowing I was being paid less than I was worth. On bad days I blame myself for this, for not fighting hard enough to get a salary in line with my male counterparts. But then I remember a specific instance when I decided to play the game like a man. I made my case, cited evidence that I wasn’t being paid adequately for the responsibilities I was carrying. In return, I was accused of being overly aggressive and disloyal to the company I was working for. And no salary increase was forthcoming. After this, I had clients taken away from me, was excluded from pitches I was exceptionally well suited for, and ultimately felt forced out.
More chilling than any of this is the casual sexual advances. I’ve been preyed on by two former employers. One when I was the most junior employee in the company. I’ve had a male colleague invite me into his office to then show me horrifyingly graphic hard core pornography on his computer screen. I put these experiences down to drunkenness (on my male colleagues part) and let them go.
I know my stories are not unusual. The evidence now bears this out. Mine are not even the worst or the most obvious examples of gender bias. The worst is that I found every other reason in the book for the situations I was facing other than gender. I blamed my performance, my overly emotional personality, my ill choice of words, the economy, the company’s performance, any excuse to avoid believing it was the one thing I could do nothing about. My sex.
RAW ENERGY SALAD
A salad to give you enough energy to fight the bastards!
1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/2 beetroot, grated
2 stick celery, finely sliced
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds,
1/2 cup coriander leaves
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
- Combine all salad ingredients together in a large bowl
- Pour dressing ingredients either into a bowl and whisk together until emulsified, or into a jar and shake until combined
- Dress salad and season to taste
- You can change out the raisins for other dried fruit. Sultanas, cranberries or goji berries are also good.
- Instead of seeds, try roasted almonds, hazel nuts or brazil nuts
- If you don’t like coriander, change out for mint or parsley
- Finely chopped broccoli or brussels sprouts, or grated celeriac would make a good addition to this salad also (especially once fennel is out of season).