#BeBoldForChange: International Women’s Day 2017

It’s International Women’s Day and I am elated!  Every year on this day I have the same overwhelming sentiment of joy and triumph.  Joy because International Women’s Day is a day world over where women globally are recognised and celebrated for our diverse contributions in all spheres of life (whether that is science, medicine, social, economic and political); and triumph literally because I ponder the struggles that many prominent and not so prominent women who have made tremendous contributions to our world have overcome.

I ponder the boldness that would have evoked their call to action, and I further consider that concomitant courage that they would have had to muster to follow through on that boldness. 

I think of Professor Wangari Mathai.  South Africa’s Wendy Luhabe.  I consider Mama Graca Machel.  Nigeria’s Ibikun Awosika, Tara Fela Durotoye and Jumoke Adenowo.  Ghana’s Grace Amey-Obeng, Reverend Joyce Aryee and Lucy Quist.  Women who perhaps at one time with fear and trepidation considered that they would not settle for the status quo but that they would pursue ever so deliberately the very dreams that kept them awake at night and which also kept them alive during the day.  Women who considered that it was better to live having pursued a pioneering dream (no matter how risky or seemingly trivial), than to live upholding and preserving the status quo. 

I honestly believe that many are born for greatness.  Greatness is in all of us – after all there are so many spheres of influence that our world needs solutions for the world’s pressing problems.  The challenge is that it will take great conviction and boldness and courage to begin it and to pursue it – often relentlessly.  It will also take greater courage to firstly articulate and then pursue those dreams if you are a woman.  Why so?  Simply and unfortunately because even in 2017, many women and men still believe that gender parity is a non-starter. 

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.  Gender parity is not a radical, feminist call to action.  As I see it, gender parity is where we must be headed. 

As a people world over, we have come of age.  Whereas centuries and even decades ago there were clearly defined roles for men and for women, and certain functions and leadership positions were the reserve of one gender over another; economic, social, and political advancement have shown that women as well as men can and do contribute tremendously to the advancement of our world in every sphere of influence.  When we fail to recognise this we do the world a disservice.

Katharine Blodgett, General Electric’s first female scientist, discovered a way to transfer thin monomolecular coatings to glass and metals in 1935. The result was glass that eliminated glare and distortion and which revolutionized cameras, microscopes, eyeglasses.  Physicist and solar-power pioneer Dr. Maria Telkes and the architect Eleanor Raymond build the first home entirely heated by solar power in 1947.  Theoretical physicist Dr Shirley Jackson was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from MIT.  Whilst working at Bell Laboratories her breakthrough basic scientific research enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, as well as the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

We need to challenge all of our conscious and unconscious biases about gender parity and capabilities if we are to secure a better future. 

Gender parity means allowing and bringing in different perspectives to the table.  It also actually demonstrates wisdom and respect for people regardless of their gender.  Our world needs gender responsiveness today so that we can enjoy the positive externalities of gender parity tomorrow. We need to diligently plan for and actualise gender parity everywhere – in our schools, universities, the Boardroom, the C Suite, Parliament, Government, the sporting arena.  Everywhere.

The World Economic Forum, in their ground-breaking research and most recent Global Gender Gap report, forecast that the gender gap will not close in entirety until 2186. This is staggering – not to say devastating.

That is why this year’s theme for International Women’s Day – Be Bold For Change – is so critical in providing a platform, an arena, where women and men world over can together decide to be bold for change, to be a catalyst for good, bold changes in our world even as we secure future generations. 


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