On today’s day, Women’s Day, most women are divided into two: those wishing each and every women they know a Happy Women’s Day perhaps not even knowing why they are transmitting such wishes and the others who firmly express their wishes not to be wished a Happy Women’s Day on the grounds that they do not need a ‘special’ day to validate them as a woman.
I do not want to bore you with the history as to where this day comes from but I believe it is necessary to understand before deciding which of the aforementioned groups you would like to put yourself in. An annual “international women’s day” was first organised in March 1911 and was originally set up to fight for women’s rights to vote. So you would say we have had the right to vote for quite a while now? Well actually no, women in Saudi Arabia only received this right last year. It also fought for women to be in public office and to have equal employment rights. Below is the proportion of women who hold political representation roles compared to men.
Perhaps you feel that making a day out of it does not help and only goes further to highlight the inequality. I actually tend to understand this but put yourself in other peoples’ shoes. This day gives the opportunity for women (and perhaps even men) to write about their story, like I am about to tell you mine, or even to protest or just an excuse to talk to someone about abuse. There is fundamentally nothing wrong with having a day to highlight the differences which are clearly still ever so present if even a small percentage of good can happen from it.
So as promised I will tell you my story which in essence is nothing different from a story that each and every one of us women has to share. By profession I am an engineer which rest assured is still a man’s world. I always tended to be a bit lets say rebellious so I thought engineering would be good for me as it would make me special. How wrong I was.
I studied engineering in the U.K. which you would think is quite a liberal country. During my studies there I was constantly looked at like I do not belong since in class I was the only women except ironically for two Muslim girls. Whilst working on a presentation with another guy I decided to point out a mistake he had made and you know what he said and I quote “you’re a girl what do you know”.
Finishing my studies and going into the working world did not get better, actually worse. My first job I was looked at like a ‘bimbo’ and I use that word purposely. Although I like going against the flow I also believe women should embrace their beauty and so I used to dress up in what is classified as formal work attire. Frequent invitations and looks could tell what some people thought of me and I do not mean just the men. On to another job which was somewhat different from the first. I decided to dress more casual and no make up to fit in. This actually helped a little but why should I have to do this to fit in with men? I get asked a question by a client (most of which do not know I am an engineer) to which I give a technical reply. They see my male colleagues and ask them the same question so as to validate me. I then proceed to give them my business card… oh you are an engineer… that changes things.
Why do I have to change the way I dress? Why do I have to announce my university studies? All this just to be validated in my field. Whilst all along a man’s word is taken prima face.
This is a struggle I face daily which unfortunately I have come to accept. My story is the same for every woman just in a different concept. I got to tell my story and perhaps one man/woman will understand what I have to face. So yes Women’s Day is important because I made it important. You have a voice, use it or remain forever complacent.