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Happy International Women’s Day! The campaign theme this year is “Embrace Equity”. Which captures a lot I have been thinking about lately.
When we talk about women’s rights (or the rights of any marginalised, discriminated or disadvataged group) the focus often is on creating equal opportunites. However, giving two people in vastly different circumstances the same resources will not yield the same result.
This is essentially the difference between equality and equity. Equality is concerend with providing the same opportunities to people. Equity focuses on allocating resources in a way that yields the same outcome.
Do we have equity for women in Germany?
I am enjoying a very privileged life. As I live in Germany, a wealthy European country, I enjoy relative security, have access to free education and health care. I grew up in a white, middle-class family and had the benefit of good schooling and University education in another country. There aren’t any formal barriers to places for me because I am female. As far as I can tell, being a man would not have afforded me any opportunities that I didn’t have as woman.
Obviously, not everything is perfect. There is a gender pay gap and we do not have enough women in leadership positions, neither in business nor in politics. I firmly believe these things should change, but I have never been directly affected by them.
However, now that I am a mother, I experience a lack of equity.
Germany is great in comparison with many other nations when it comes to maternal rights. However, being pregnant and bearing a child does mean time outside of the workplace. Even though there is some financial compensation, it is not a full salary. Nor is maternity leave a time where one progresses on the career ladder.
Furthermore, Germany has nowhere near enough nursery capacities. Meaning, if you are lucky you might find part-time childcare. As a consequence, parents need to look after their children in the afternoons. Most of the time, mothers are the ones who reduce their work hours and the ones who will stay home from work when the child is ill. This affects their salaries and, in the long run, their pensions.
My personal experience
I personally am not necessarily interested in having more hours of childcare. It’s a great blessing that SJ can go to nursery in the mornings, especially as the place she goes to is amazing. But I love our afternoons together. I enjoy spending time with her, watching her grow and being able to input and shape who she becomes.
But I still worry about my pension and would prefer to be in a better financial situation now.
Every woman and every mother is different but many of the mums I know like taking on the responsibility and work of looking after their children. It does not feel fair, that choosing part-time work plus parenting puts one at risk of poverty.
Childcare, female work and the need for equity
Children are our future. Having them and looking after them provides great benefits to society. Like many other unpaid work women do. For example caring for elderly parents and relatives or volunteering in various capacities.
Further, many women hold jobs in the social sector. Nursing, caring and teaching. All professions which are of immense importance to society, that are physically and emotionally taxing and but receive low pay.
I believe that women should be valued and celebrated for who they are. That involves adequately paying for the work that they do – in and out of the house. It is good to fight for more nursery places and more resources for care homes. We should also remunerate, resource and equip families who look after children and/or elderly relatives at home.
What can I do?
Today is a great day to look at how far we have come. It’s a great day to remember all the work that is still to do. And it’s an opportunity to think about what we can do for more equity and justice for others.
Maybe it is helping children from less privileged backgrounds with their homework. Giving money to charities that provide education for women or give micro-loans. Voting for parties that champion equal rights.
Let’s embrace equity and celebrate women everywhere. Today, and the rest of the year.
This is Day 15 of my 100 Day Project. You can learn more about my 100 day project by reading this post. If you want to do your own 100 day Project, I would recommend checking out the 100 Day Project website.