UN Women and the YWCA recently released a list of objectives to be met that would help elevate standards for women. It's a list of simple demands when you really consider them, simple because they include basic rights that should be extended to everyone.
They range from access to education, physical and financial security and equal pay. They're privileges that should have been extended to women long ago, but for whatever reason were obstructed. Fault society, antiquated policies, implicit stereotypes, whatever the case may be. The standards are universal, as these noble agencies have now elevated gender equality to the international level. A stark contrast to past campaigns, which for decades remained localized.
Two things stood out in my mind as I read through the individual lists. First, there were no action plans available to reach these goals. It's not good strategy to make demands when there's no course of action to go on. It gives policymakers the power to decide our fate. If we want more control over our lives, we should outline that strategy.
Second, the underlying supportive needs were eliminated. Think childcare solutions that would help mothers make that transition from the kitchen to the c-suite. Yes, that's pretty ambitious, but so are mothers. Or requiring businesses to understand a parent's need for additional time off, or at the very least to work more from home. While many companies boast of their flex time programs, it usually amounts to a marketing pitch. There are conditions to be met before a parent can take advantage of this benefit, and managers always have the final say in who gets to enjoy it.
At the very least, what mothers need is a little empathy at the workplace. Now, many will view this as whining, but that really is not the case. I can't tell you the countless times childless workers have griped about colleagues who needed leeway to care for a child. It's pretty embarrassing to hear these complaints uttered now. The workforce is a fusion of diverse characters from all levels of society, each with their own needs and demands really. To keep them engaged and reduce hiring costs, many companies are bending backwards to accommodate them. If these whiners are not accustomed to this by now, then maybe they should be leaving the labor force.
This is not to suggest that women should receive extra privileges. Only that all this talk about respecting individuality and accommodating the special needs of professionals should be extended to women, whether or not they have children. Chances are, most women will wind up bearing them anyway. Forcing them to choose between their personal and professional lives is unfair. Making them believe they can't have both should be a crime.
I commend UN Women and YWCA on their tireless crusades. They have been center stage during this entire campaign for women's rights and I thank them. But let's look beneath the grand plan and focus on a foundation to build from. Let's start with awareness for what women really need and want: courtesy and peace of mind.