Expert Opinion: Why Do We Celebrate Women's Day?

Expert Opinion: Why Do We Celebrate Women's Day?


With so many successful feminist social media movements like #FreeTheNipple, #LoveYourLines, #ToTheGirls, #RedMyLips and others, it seems almost bizzare to even try to understand why we still celebrate International Women’s Day.

To end our weeklong celebration for International Women’s Day, Vanilla Luxury seeks expert opinion from Andrew Bryant, Author of Self - Leadership and member of the faculty of Women Leadership at Singapore Management University. We asked him about his thoughts on why we celebrate Women’s Day.  This is what he has to say:

It’s a fair question, but one that opens a Pandora’s Box of issues. The answer is very simple - unconscious bias. We are at 2016 when we have prominent women like:

Mae Carol Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space as a NASA astronaut, Dame Natalie Sara Massanet DBE, founder of Net-a-porter, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and president of the National League for Democracy,  Malala Yousafzai, activist for women education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and many alike.

Expert Opinion: Why Do We Celebrate Women's Day?
From L-R: Mae Carol Jemison, Dame Natalie Sara Massanet DBE, Aung San Suu Kyi, Malala Yousafzai. Image Credits: WikiMedia

With women shaping the education, science, political and business landscape, why does the gender bias still exist?

Unconscious bias is everywhere. We do not see the world as it is but as we expect it to be. We filter experiences as right or wrong, good or bad, with little or no awareness on the criteria we use to make the judgement.

The ground-breaking work by Daniel Kahneman described in his book, ‘Think Fast and Slow’, shows how our brains rapidly jump to conclusions without doing a thorough analysis. It’s only when we slow down and engage our critical thinking that we carefully analyse situations.

Maybe what the wise men have been telling one another for over a 100,000 years is correct. Israeli history professor, Yuval Noah Harari, says that what gives us humans the advantage over our ape cousins is our ability to tell fictional stories. If this is true, and I believe it is, then the storyteller has the power to shape reality.

In this case, it’s the stories that women tell themselves too. According to authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their book, ‘The Confidence Code’, when something goes wrong; women blame themselves while crediting others when things go right. Women are often telling themselves a story that they have to be ‘perfect.’ This discounts their confidence and holds them back from asking questions or asking for a raise until they are 100 percent sure of the outcome.

Globally, women contribute to social, economic, cultural and political achievement. But the journey to equality has slowed down. The World Economic Forum has predicted that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2133. That’s 28 years later than it was predicted in the previous year!

New stories can loosen old mental models, but it is only when we take new actions that we get new beliefs and a new reality.

International Women’s Day is important because it asks both men and women to pledge to take concrete steps to help achieve gender equality. Concrete steps to ensure equal access to education and leadership positions, can only benefit the world.

We will still have bias, but with gender equality and effective communication we can offset one another’s blind spots.

Contributor: Andrew Bryant

Andrew Bryant is a Certified Speaking Professional, Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach based in Singapore, but works globally. He is the President of Asia Professional Speakers - Singapore and is also a member of the faculty of Women Leadership at Singapore Management University. Andrew has written a book titled Self Leadership (McGraw-Hill 2012), to get a free chapter click here.

This article originally appeared on Andrew Bryant's LinkedIn Page. Edits have been made by Vanilla Luxury Editing Team.

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