What is women’s empowerment? What comes to mind when you think of women’s empowerment? Gender equality? Choice? The Women’s Movement? Self-love? Providing a brighter future for our little girls… the women of tomorrow? Or perhaps it’s about honesty and owning who we are and where we’re at.
As women we’re so damn hard on ourselves. Striving to live up to expectations. Striving to prove ourselves and our worth. But how often do we stop and ask ourselves, “Why?”. After all, no one’s perfect. We all feel stressed, vulnerable and overwhelmed at least some of the time. We’re all human, doing the best we can.
Perhaps that’s what International Women’s Day is all about. Challenging the status quo. Challenging the Why that shapes so many aspects of our lives, opportunities and relationships.
Women’s Empowerment means different things to different people, so this International Women’s Day we asked six inspiring women to share their views on women’s empowerment and why it’s important for women, families and the community.
“In a word: Women’s empowerment means equality. It’s about giving women the equal freedom to make their own choices, and the opportunity for choice – without judgment. As it stands women lack the opportunities they need to make the choices that suit them; like applying for promotions when training pathways do not exist to make it possible,” says Shivani Gopal, founder of the social enterprise, The Remarkable Woman.
Sarah Cannata, founder and editor, This Woman Can, agrees, “There is no common definition for women’s empowerment but for me, it means creating an environment where women, all around the world, have equality on every level – socially, economically, politically and so on.
It’s about women being able to have a voice without disastrous consequences. About young girls being able to get an education and become leaders within our global community. It’s about women uniting as one to make the world safer and more peaceful, and a place where we can all thrive, not just a select few.”
“Women’s empowerment put simply is; enabling women to prioritise themselves and their needs to live life on their terms. This means not letting social norms, rules and other people’s expectations govern their decision making and ultimately their life,” says Executive Coach and Human Resource Specialist Suzanne Williams from Grace and Grind.
“Women’s empowerment is about making it possible for women to participate fully in society. It means different things in different societies and making it happen may involve making changes to laws and reshaping the views and actions of Government, business and individuals. It may be about women having the right to vote, work, access healthcare and childcare.” Marissa Sandler, co-founder of Careseekers.
Lucy Good from Beanstalk Mums says, “Empowerment amongst women is one of the strongest forces I know. It is an energy created amongst like-minded women with a common belief, objective or understanding. It comes in numbers but helps people individually. It reaches beyond what we think we are, and shows us how much more we can be. It has an intensity which is almost spell-binding.”
Marissa Sandler adds, “Women’s empowerment means stronger communities and stronger economies. It means an entire population will flourish – not just one segment.”
But empowerment can be easier said than done as Executive Coach and Human Resource Specialist Suzanne Williams reveals. “Empowerment is important for every human being regardless of gender. We all deserve to live a life that we choose and according to the terms that are right for us. Historically however, many women have grown up in environments where they are taught to be polite, demure and compliant.
Unfortunately, these behaviours are counterproductive to empowerment and have ultimately led to 1) women behaving in a self-sacrificing unempowered manner and 2) being consciously and unconsciously treated in an inferior manner by some of their male counterparts,” says Williams.
Shivani Gopal agrees, “One of the key things that holds women back is the regular injustices that have become norms in our society, such as expecting that when a working mum returns to work – her work isn’t going to be as important to her, or to the business she works for, or where a woman’s idea isn’t heard in the boardroom or shut down by colleagues.”
“Gender Equality should be on the top of every company’s key agenda / goals. Not just the key focus that most companies want: ROI. Women empowerment means marginalizing power in women and especially our young girls of today. We need our daughter, nieces to find a purpose and have a belief, so that they can play a significant role in the society! Because we need to remember that women around the world are not the edge of reason, they are the reason itself,” says Francesca Thorne, CEO and Founder of Australian Women’s Network.
Marissa Sandler adds that women’s empowerment paves the way for the women of tomorrow.
“When women are able to meaningfully participate in society their needs and rights will be heard and enforced. This means women’s safety and well-being will improve and their ability to be in control of, and further, their lives will increase. This will have a flow on effect to children – as their well-being is always intrinsically connected to the well-being of women,” says Sandler.
Lucy Good believes that women’s empowerment creates ripple affects of change. “It generates a voice that may have previously been a whisper. A voice that demands attention and instigates change. Women’s empowerment changes lives, changes laws, changes perceptions. It is an integral part of our history.
The effect of empowerment on an individual woman is intense and exciting, yet warm and welcoming. Being amongst empowerment is a physical, mental and emotional high. It is a place to belong,” Good says.
“Giving women the opportunity and freedom for choice means they are empowered to sit in the driver’s seat of their life and navigate it any way they wish. It means women can choose to fully participate in the workforce, be promoted as equals to their male counterparts, and have the opportunity to earn the same as men. When this happens; the economy flourishes, businesses grow, and most importantly, women have the opportunity to make their professional and financial dreams a reality,” Shivani Gopal told The Love Destination.