How Does a Gender Balanced World Look Like?

As I scroll through Instagram today, I saw selfies and photos of girlfriends celebrating International Women’s Day, a special day made to celebrate our achievements and the equality that we have fought for so far. Brands are also hopping onto the bandwagon to celebrate it with us, although we all know that the actual intention is to push more sales and encourage consumerism.

#BalanceforBetter is the theme chosen by the official organizer for International Women’s Day 2019. The theme doesn’t imply that women should try to balance between work life and family life, but rather, the theme urges all of us to strive for a gender balanced world.

What is Gender Balance?

By definition, a gender balanced world is one where there is equal participation of male and female in all areas of work and life. One where there is no gap between income levels, growth opportunities, or even rights to make a difference to the local community.

As a self-proclaimed feminist who sometimes feels unqualified to talk about gender equality, mainly because I don’t feel educated enough in this topic, I decided to take things to my own hands to educate myself more about this.

We were born equal, but why did it change when we get older?

As I dig deeper into the statistics on women empowerment, I noticed that here in Malaysia, the birth rate and educational attainment of the female demographic are almost equal as male. In fact, more women choose to pursue tertiary education as compared to their male counterparts.

However, as they grow older and start getting into the workforce, things change. Women’s participation rate in the workforce (in selected domains chosen for this study) is way lower than men’s. Worse so, the female population is actually one million more than the male population here in Malaysia. So, where did the girls go after graduation? Did they really believe that they have to give it all up and stay home to be “good moms” or “good wives”? I thought tertiary education should qualify them better to join the workforce and excel in it!

Besides that, for every RM100.00 salaries and wages earned by men, women only received RM93.80. This could be due to the under-representation of women in leadership roles. In Malaysia, there are only 22.2% women who became legislators, senior officials, and managers. It’s worse in the political field, where only 11% of the elected parliamentary and 8.6% of minister positions are held by women.

gender balanced world - malaysia women empowerment
Source: Department of Statistics Malaysia, Official Portal

How does a gender-balanced world look like?

Definitely nothing like what we have right now. Of course, we have improved in many ways since the older days – women are receiving education and encouraged to get into the workforce. Yet, there are still discrepancies in income level and growth opportunities. There is a lot more to be achieved before we can get to where we call “balance”.

A gender balanced world is one where women should be free to take on bigger roles in companies without being criticized. She should be paid equally as her male counterparts and never deemed less capable just because she is married or has kids at home.

A gender balanced world is one where there are more female politicians who have the power to make a difference in the economy and wellfare of others. One where young girls don’t need to “dream” to be a female prime minister or president, they know that it is possible.

A gender balanced world is one where there are equal number of dads and mums picking kids up from the school gate. One where men who stay home to take care of the household and support their partners’ careers are not praised, but instead normalized.

A gender balanced world is one where a woman can be proud of her senior level position and allowed to date someone with a lower position without shame. There is nothing wrong with a woman being “more successful” than her male partner.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is…

A gender balanced world is one where the traditional idea of masculinity and femininity is stripped off. One where men can cry and women can lift. A woman living in a gender balanced world should be able to not give a fuck about what people, especially the older generation or traditional-minded people, would think. She can pursue her career, her relationship, her favourite activity, her favourite clothes without the fear of criticism. She can be whoever she chooses to be.

Happy International Women’s day to all the amazing women out there! ?

Thank you for reading till the end!

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