What do women want?

INTERNATIONAL Women's Day has returned but this time with lesser prominence and hijacked by saucy political gossip. This is only expected with the next big event waiting to descend upon us in a flurry and fury to "delight" the nation at large.

Annually, the famed International Women's Day comes and goes with acknowledgement from all quarters and peppered with celebration in the form of events and activities. Subsequently, the pretence will pass and all will be forgotten. We go back to busying ourselves with bread and butter issues until it comes around to us again. What else is there to the stoic event that comes calling annually?

It is recorded that International Women's Day first emerged from activities of Labour movements at the turn of the 20th century in North America and across Europe. Since those early years, the occasion has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike.

The first recorded International Women's Day was held on March 8, 1914, possibly because it was a Sunday and that date is more or less cast on stone.

Characteristically, International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, call for change and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in the history of their countries and communities.

The much hyped about topic of Women in Leadership positions is gaining momentum and, slowly but surely, we are seeing the numbers pointing favourably in the right direction. Corporations see the increasing value of having women in leadership positions as it can help intensify cultural competencies among employees.

In this context, it is important to note how women's roles have evolved, how flexible work arrangements, for example, allow more women to combine family and professional responsibilities. And yet it is interesting but hard to digest that the proverbial Glass Ceiling has yet to be shattered for many more women. Such women continue to merely exist doing what is mundanely possible, leaving everything to chance.

Having said that, when we are acutely attuned towards achieving our goals, our senses catapult us directly into the creative realm and we become less cagey and look for opportunities. Women living in self-limiting beliefs are not there yet and need to have this push of motivation to recognise the opportunities being presented to them, overly or otherwise.

It is easy to speak and write about such issues but the reality is more melodramatic, with a need for poise and discerning minds for collective action.

On this occasion, let me share 10 Facts about women, compiled from The Globalist.

1. Women perform 66% of the world's work and produce 50% of the food. They earn just 10% of incomes and own 1% of the property globally.

2. Out of 197 countries, only 22 of them have women serving as heads of state – just 11.2%.

3. Women outpace men in educational achievement, with 58% of college graduates. While two-thirds of women graduate in the humanities and the arts, men continue to dominate in science with 60% of graduates.

4. More girls than boys now complete their secondary education in 32 out of 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, accounting for around 60% of the total.

5. In business, the gender gap remains wide. In the US, for example, only 21 of the CEOs from Fortune 500 companies are women.

6. Men are promoted based on their potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments. Men work while women need to be seen to be working.

7. Research studies confirm a direct correlation between the gender gap in economic opportunities and economic growth.

8. By contrast, the smaller the nation's gender gap, the higher its economic productivity. Where Malaysia fares here is a little tricky to assess as we get numbers exploited for seasonal gains.

9. In nearly every country, women work longer hours than men and are paid less. Again, we may not have conclusive figures that say the same for our home country.

10. Women in poor countries do more unpaid work, work longer hours in the informal economy and face degrading working conditions. Women and girls who are imported into the country as "slaves" from poorer nations are typically in this category.

This year's International Women's Day is themed #PressforChange, a call for forging a better working world and a more gender inclusive world.

If the question on how to press for change is unsettling, I am not surprised. There has to be collective desire, commitment and action and decorating the list of actionable items would be to commit to gender parity that will power and push the change we wish to see and become.

Gender Parity is a numerical concept related to equality. It concerns with relative equality in terms of numbers and proportions of women and men, girls and boys and is often calculated as the ratio of female-to-male values for a given indicator. When male-to-female ratios are calculated instead, the term "sex ratio" is used instead of "Gender Parity".

It is time we bothered ourselves with the relevant terms of reference as knowledge combined with the wisdom to overcome cul-de-sacs and cull obstacles and spoilers. We surely don't need speed humps now when we are at the crossroads of "Now or Never".

While many women are occupying the halls of power and fame, many more are left stranded and such women need a helping hand. Women for women sounds like a grandiose theme but the complexities are far reaching.

As to the question on what a woman should be in the wake of the 21st century and beyond, let us strike a balance between traditionalism and feminism. This article is intended to pay homage to the women who need to shed complacency and self-pity and start revolutionizing their mindset and thoughts.