March 8 marks the yearly campaign for international women’s day as it celebrates women’s achievements and representations, actions for equality and confronts gender bias.
Three different women lend their perspectives on the importance and meaning of international women’s day in their lives and the sexism they have experienced.
Jessica Wagner, whose titles includes but should not be limited to “a mother, a partner, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a student, a teacher, a dog lover, a seeker, a reader and a businesswoman,” sees international women’s day as a way to honour all women.
To her, this includes the women in her family, her daughter, herself as well as the historical women, their governments, mothers and teachers who have contributed to the future of women’s success and equality.
As a businesswoman in a male-dominated industry, Wagner is familiar with the struggles of sexism.
“There were times when I felt like I needed to be more firm than my instinct directed me, times when I felt like vulnerability could be perceived as weakness … I have often been the only woman in the boardroom,” said Wagner.
Her role as a working mother undermines traditional roles at home in what she calls a “revolution opportunity” as her husband is a stay-at-home dad.
She hopes this upbringing will give her daughter the “viewpoint where she sees you can be a successful mother while also being career-minded.”
“I hope she will feel lucky that she has such a strong father-daughter bond with her dad,” she said.
Wagner said she is appreciative of having a day dedicated to bringing attention to women.
“International women’s day is important because it allows space for celebration, honouring and understanding of women,” she said.
Mya (Mamta) Gokani, a businesswoman of Indian descent, sees the importance of international women’s day for its celebration of women’s equality.
“A day on which women and men around the world celebrate the progression toward an equal relationship between the sexes, it is also a day on which we celebrate the various achievements women have accomplished,” said Gokani.
Gokani’s experiences with struggle deal more with racism than sexism.
“For instance, I changed my name from the more ethnic-sounding, Mamta to Mya when I was young,” she said, “I realized there was a significant disadvantage to using my real name versus my chosen one.
“I also noticed call-backs from jobs were more likely when it was Mya Gokani not Mamta Gokani when I was applying,” said Gokani.
She recognizes that her experience with racism is not as severe as others due to her multicultural and progressive upbringing, nor has she felt as held back by sexism in her career as other women.
“I’ve been lucky … I think the industry I work in has flexibility and I’ve capitalized on opportunities to build a strong enough career … where I’m respected and not sexually harassed at work,” said Gokani.
She said that International Women’s Day importance comes from its ability to bring attention to the “historically ignored contribution of women to society … and enduring inequalities women face in Canadian society.”
For Gokani, it also means having a promising future for her children.
“Just as I was fortunate enough not to experience the level of sexism and racism my mother and grandmother did, I hope my children won’t experience the barriers I have … international women’s day is a part of that future,” said Gokani.
Kat Georgiadis, a competitive volleyball player, believes this day provides an opportunity to celebrate and appreciate women around the world.
“It is a day in which we reflect on the important contributions that women have made to humanity and continue to make on a daily basis,” said Georgiadis.
It is in her role as a female athlete where Georgiadis experiences many levels of sexism.
“I have had many experiences when I’ve participated in co-ed activities or played with males and they’ve always played cautiously once I stepped onto the playing field,” she recalls, “it is almost as if they assume I’m not as strong or do not have the ability to compete with them.”
Georgiadis recognizes that female athletes gain less notoriety than male athletes; though she hopes days like international women’s day will challenge this inequality.
“This day allows women to be the centre of attention and is a way of educating the public,” said Georgiadis.
This attention is important, especially for young girls, as it provides an opportunity for women to “aspire to be the best they can be.”
Click here for more information on the mission and 2020 campaign for international women’s day.