If you’re familiar with my articles, women’s rights and equal access to opportunities are something that I hold dearly to myself. I have written about women in Science, women in ICT, the dangers of catcalling, among others. So, of course, I had to write about International Women’s Day!International Women’s Day, celebrated last Thursday, was done under the theme “#pressforprogress”. Since the last International Women’s Day, the world, I believe, has undergone a sort of revolution. Movements such as #metoo, #timesup have been pushed to the forefront. Women all around the world used the hashtags to point out abuse of power, and more particularly sexual abuse in the workplace; as well as to call for change.Notably, last Thursday as well, former Bishop’s High School teacher Coen Jackson was charged, and remanded to prison for engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of sixteen. When that story broke, I was both horrified and simultaneously encouraged. I was angry at the things that students said Jackson had done to them, how he had misused his position as their teacher, how he had sexually groomed students, and especially how many people claimed that his actions were common knowledge. Yet I was also inspired by the response of the public. The public refused to let this slip idly by, staging protests and truly calling for a change.This type of public responsibility gives me hope. It makes me feel as though we, as a society, are progressing. Yet — I am sure, sadly — there are many other teachers like Jackson; teachers who prey upon their students, teachers whose “behaviours” are excused, since they are so good at their jobs. I hope that Jackson serves as an example that no one is untouchable. I hope that how this case was handled gives other girls the courage to come forward. And I hope that we continue to believe our girls when they are brave enough to speak out.International Women’s Day is, I think, important, as it gives a chance to reflect upon the strides we have made in women’s rights, and serves as a reminder that we still have so much further to go. It is a chance to celebrate beautiful, border-pushing women.Personally, on this day, I like to think about the women who push forward in male- dominated fields such as Science and Engineering; in particular Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics. I think this is because I have seen first hand how negative stereotypes about girls can affect their performance and participation in those fields. It is not okay to tell a girl that she should be better at reading than she is at mathematics. It is not okay to be surprised when a girl is better at mathematics than her male classmates, and it is definitely not okay to doubt a girl’s abilities simply because she is female.I know that such responses may seem small and insignificant, but they add up. They say to her that it’s weird that she thinks she would be successful in those fields. They say to her that, because you are female, you should expect that this should be difficult for you.Breaking into a male-dominated field, even for an extremely determined girl, is hard. It isn’t hard because we can’t handle the work, but it’s hard because we can’t handle the culture. Women have first to break past their own negative views of themselves, then they have to convince everyone else around them, and keep them convinced every day. Female scientists tend to be doubted more, credited less, and ultimately valued less. Yet, we have to #pressonforprogress.Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them.
International Women’s Day