This morning, the first message I saw on my phone was: '15% discount on all women's items at H&M, to celebrate International Women's Day'. When I opened my mailbox, all kinds of similar invitations to celebrate International Women's Day flooded in. This day is fast becoming an international (and commercial) item on the agenda.
International Women's Day is, I believe, a good thing. That we're paying attention to the fact that women are payed less then men, and that the violence still used against women needs to stop. And that it highlights the fact that we need to pay attention to our own unconscious biases is also undoubtedly good: do we treat our sons differently than we do our daughters?
Marcel and I have three sons and a daughter. And when I look at them, our daughter is far the more intelligent than the boys. She has has the potential to become a global leader. She knows how to articulate her opinion and debates with her brothers when necessary, and in turn, they respect her. Yes she is the little girl in the family, and she likes to cuddle, shop and do creative stuff but she also knows that we, as parents, encourage her to stand up against other people who want to take her down, both boys and girls.
My concern is the peer pressure from other girls. Girls who grow up with the mindset that boys and girls can't do the same things and that girls should behave in a certain way to get what they want. When she wants to fit in and be friends with her team mates and school friends, she responds to the pressure to adjust her behaviour. It breaks my heart to see, because I know this is how it starts. And it will not end. Even as an adult, as a mother, as a co-worker and as an entrepreneur I feel this peer pressure. Other mothers in the school yard with opinions about motherhood, colleagues in the workplace influencing what one another wears and dictating how to behave, and even voicing opinions on the way I run my business.
Men and women grow up with inherited beliefs about gender, race and sexual preferences and it is hard to change that belief system. But it's not impossible. Take time to reflect on your own values regarding gender and decide if it something you want your children to share. Perpetuating belief systems starts with our little ones and filters upwards and we have to be honest with ourselves regarding our opinions on women and their roles in society.
Today, I will celebrate IWD, for all the girls, women and baby girls who will be born in the future. Because, although I believe in diversity of skills and experiences over the focus on gender, race of sexual preference, a huge part of the world still makes decisions based on gender. Even here in the Netherlands, a country which prides itself on its forward thinking.
This morning my children wanted to know why we have an International Women’s Day, and when we will celebrate International Men’s day. Good point, they need to know exactly why. It's not about buying new clothes with a discount.