Did you give International Women's Day, the time of day?

8 March marked the global observance of International Women’s Day (IWD). Through social media posts, articles, videos, conferences, store discounts, and webinars we praised progress and celebrated women from every walk of life, from historical icons and glass ceiling breaking CEOs, to artists and stay-at-home mums. 

However, it’s easy to let IWD pass you by, with an 'it's not relevant to me’ attitude because maybe you’re a man and it’s not your day, or perhaps you’re a woman in a good job and a happy life and you can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

It’s so easy in fact, that we can tell you our most recent Discover email newsletter had 20% less opens than normal. And the subject header for this one was ‘International Women’s Day tomorrow’… Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

The reality is, IWD plays a vital role in helping women around the world achieve whatever they want to achieve. And that includes within engineering - which is why it should be relevant to anyone who wants to help engineer a better New Zealand (to borrow our tagline).

We have a shortage of women here in New Zealand studying to be or who currently are engineers. And for those in the industry, many are paid less just because they are female. Yet studies show, companies with a diverse workforce have a competitive edge over those that are yet to fully embrace diversity within their employees.

As is the case with any social movement, there are pockets of the population that struggle with the transforming status quo.  Comment sections become muddled with messages of hate, misogynistic and often racial slurs, and individuals that swear up and down that feminism is the root of all evil and causing the ice caps to melt. Unresolvable complaints include (but are not limited to): “Why isn’t there an international men’s day?”, “Why should there be only one day dedicated to international women’s day?”, “Doesn’t society already give too much of an advantage to women?” 

It is hard to disagree with the assertion that virtually every culture and society on the planet has been dominated by men since the dawn of the human race.  The biases characterized by comments such as these can never be addressed with a flippant response. That’s why we need people to step up and say, “look, this day isn’t about putting men down, it’s about celebrating how much closer we’ve come to achieving gender balance”.  

On 2 April we are hosting a Diversity Agenda event here at Engineering New Zealand to bring you the results from the latest nationwide survey which looked at the issue of diversity, and we’ll have Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley talk about these results and address how we can bring about the changes we need.

So maybe you did miss our last newsletter but come along on 2 April and find out more - you never know, you might find it relevant after all.