International Women’s Day - why I look forward to the day when we won’t need a day
Women are recognised for their contribution to society on International Women's Day but inequality still exists, especially in Asia Pacific where women make up only 35% of the workforce and hold only 4% of executive positions, while women in Iran are still fighting for basic human rights
Every year at this time, I see LinkedIn posts celebrating smart, powerful women in the workplace. These women contribute to the fortunes of the companies they work for while seizing control of their personal financial destinies. This is something worth celebrating, isn’t it? So, what is it about International Women’s Day that bothers me so much?
We, in the West in general, have come a long way since 1847 when women took to the street demanding voting rights in the United States and Europe. Those early suffragettes risked arrest and physical harm to push for change. We owe so much to those early heroines.
Inequality still exists in Asia Pacific
In Asia Pacific, where I live and work, women comprise 50% of the total population but only 35% of the workforce. Women make up only 4% of chief executive officers, 10% of chief financial officers, and 5% of board members in the region. Only 9% of Asia Pacific companies publish their pay gap between men and women, and only 1% have closed their pay gap. We've seen the literacy rate of women improve in Singapore and Malaysia to well over 90%, but it’s still only 66% in India.
Today, in 2023, we shouldn’t need a day celebrating women, but until we reach the point of true equality, the themes of International Women’s Day should stay with us constantly.
Today, I am the marketing director for a global cybersecurity company covering Asia Pacific. Only a few of my coworkers know I was born in Brazil, a country where gender inequality is the norm. It was my mother who pushed me and never allowed me to accept anything less for myself. When I wasn't doing well in school, or when I wanted to drop out of college, it was her voice that pushed me forward. “Not on my watch,” she said, and she meant every syllable.
She pushed my siblings and me to explore new horizons, travel, and eventually pursue a graduate degree in a foreign country. If not for her, I wouldn’t be here in my role today—a brown Brazilian speaking English as a second language running a multi-million dollar department of a global company in Asia. If not for her, my brother, who owns a medium-sized company in Brazil, wouldn’t spend his evenings on bedtime duty or “agree” to take care of his four daughters while his wife is busy working.
I honoured those women through a writing project with my mother, who suggested that we tell the story of 22 women who made history in Brazil.
In 2022, after four years of blood, sweat, and tears, we finally published our book series, Brazil, by 22 Women who made History. Despite the pressures and commitment to working full-time jobs, we took on this project hoping to inspire, guide, and educate the next generation of Brazilian women.
Change starts at work and home
Change starts at work—with us celebrating organisations that support equal pay, offer parental leave not only for women but for men as well, and offer open opportunities that are available to all qualified employees.
I feel amazed and touched by the #metoo movement and the people in Iran who are risking their lives for the cause. And yet, my faith in the future is truly restored when I see my brother raising his four daughters to be anything they want, to follow a career, to be better human beings, and to never give up on their education and their dreams. I’m confident those four little girls will go a long way, stand on our shoulders, and become a part of the next generation of giants.
Liz Drysdale is the marketing director for Asia Pacific and Japan at SentinelOne, an American cybersecurity company.
Keywords: Women, Literacy, Cybersecurity
Country: Singapore, Malaysia
Region: Asia Pacific
Guest: Liz Drysdale