As the father of two daughters, you do wonder what the future holds for them. I am more than aware that while my son may not have the same hurdles in his way as they do, but my wish for all three is simple – that they can achieve the best in life for themselves.
Today we celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day and in many ways it’s sad that we even need these days – it automatically assumes that there is a difference between the sexes that must be sorted. And before the idiots make a noise, I would say the same about International Men’s Day on November 19th. Surely today we should be living in a society where there are no barriers because of gender, but we know that there are in developed counties across the world never mind the continued persecution, belittling and misogyny of many developing nations.
Without ignoring those developing countries we should do more at home to sort out the parity between males and females here at home. One of the first things I would like to see – and I blogged about this before – is strong role models for young girls. I’d rather my daughter looked up to Emma Watson that any Kardashian or Jenner – when is this obsession with vacuousness, talentless, narcissistic celebrity going to end? Let’s start holding Laura Trott, Michelle Obama, Dorcas Muthoni, Kirsty Wark, Katherine Ryan, Mary Beard, Malala, Laura Kuenssberg, JK Rowling, Angela Merkel and other strong successful women in all different fields up for our daughters to see and admire. Just because you’ve filmed a sex tape, ghost written a dozen terrible books or have married someone famous does not make you someone to look up to.
Another thing society needs to sort out is wages. Today there was an article saying that University of Aberdeen had a wide gap in pay levels between the sexes – how can this be? Consider that girls consistently outperform boys in school yet they earn around a fifth less in the workplace for the same jobs. It can’t be beyond the wit of HR departments across the world to sort this one out.
Within education there are constant drives to push girls towards the “STEM” subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – and while it is good in some ways there needs to be a different approach here. Positive discrimination is not something I particularly like. I’d rather we just opened all these subjects as wide as we can, looking at the successes and skills required, ensuring timetables further down the school were unbiased and all kids were taught these skills. With the current narrowing of the curriculum – especially in Scotland – you automatically limit the likelihood of girls choosing the subjects further on in their educational journey. I don’t believe you will ever have a 50/50 split of male and female in these subjects but ensuring the door isn’t closed is more important.
I also want society to stop looking at women negatively for choosing to stay at home and raise their family. I would argue that this is something done more by other women than men. The idea that “Superwomen” can really do it all has been a stick with which to beat women for the last couple of decades. Some women choose to both work and raise a family, others prioritize with more men staying at home. If you have a family and one parent stays at home to look after the kids then they are performing a great service to the family unit and regardless of gender they should be celebrated and valued. Bringing up a family is not an easy job and shouldn’t be seen as a second class job in society.
In the same vein, women who choose to – or have to – work should be made to feel bad that they are putting their kids into nurseries or having grandparents look after them. For a woman to want her own career and a family is not a contradiction. If you can do it I applaud you, but I also applaud all the women who want to work and build a career and not have kids. There is a disproportionate pressure on women to reproduce and it’s not something ever asked of men. I think men see this a threat to their domination of the boardrooms – a woman who only wants to focus on work and not take time off? Really, how dare they!
As I mentioned at the top, I have two daughters and when I look at the world and their future in it there is only one thing I want for them is to be afforded every opportunity regardless of their gender. That is equality. Not pushing overtly feminist agendas; not using positive discrimination; not achieving only because they are girls; but because they are good enough and every door is open to them. I want all three of my children to achieve their best regardless of their gender. We will support them in their choices, successes, failures and ambitions – not because they are male or female – but because I love them.