Last weekend, I joined thousands of other women in Sydney to march in the Women’s March, Sydney, one of the over 600 marches organised across the globe in solidarity with the historic Women’s March on Washington following the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.
I have not been in a march since my days at university (a long long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away), so when I registered to march on the organiser’s Facebook page and saw that just over 2,500 individuals had also registered, I was not prepared for a crowd three to four times this size to also march with me.
People I met were marching for all sorts of different reasons. Many were there to voice objections to women being discussed in physically demeaning ways during the US election. But there were also women from ‘Grandmothers for Refugees’ and ‘Catholics for Gender Equality’, as well as people from the left and the right side of politics. There were people marching for pay equity, to stop violence against women, against racism, against homophobia and many, many other motivations.
This is no surprise. When thousands in Sydney, and over a million around the world, gather together, their intentions, their motivations and their ideologies can be different.
And that’s the beauty of it. Women, men and children coming together and finding common ground, even if they don’t share views in other areas.
The common ground is that women’s rights are human rights, racism and xenophobia are unacceptable and diversity & inclusion is the only way forward.
The reason that I made the decision to march was not only to show solidarity with other citizens of the world but because I believe, when it comes to issues around gender equality, we still have a long way to go in Australia.
I marched because the gender pay gap in Australia remains unacceptably high, because there is a paucity of women in leadership positions, and because women still bear the brunt of the majority of domestic work even when they are out in the workforce.
I marched because levels of sexual violence and domestic/family violence against women are completely unacceptable and because sexual harassment and discrimination still exists in the workplace.
I marched because women routinely receive threats of sexual violence on social media simply for expressing opinions, because women continue to be defined by their parental status or marital status, and because there are a lot of working mums in Australia but no ‘working dads’.
I marched because in 2017 a woman's marital status or child bearing experience are still questioned when they achieve professional success, as we saw after Gladys Berejiklian, the first female ever to become a Liberal Premier of NSW, was sworn in this week.
I also marched because sometimes we need to leave the keyboard behind and come together in person, peacefully, to send a powerful message about the issues that concern us.
As Tracey Spicer, who emceed the Sydney March stated, if we keep showing up, eventually the issues that are important to us must be heard. The spectacle of thousands upon thousands of pink hats, the signs, and the sheer strength of numbers cannot be dismissed by twitter trolls or narrow minded opinion writers.
Of course, it was no surprise to me that much of the objection on social media after the march was from people who believed or at least tried to argue that advocating for gender equality in Australia and other parts of the developed, democratic world meant that issues for women under oppressive and autocratic regimes or in developing countries is not our concern. How ridiculous! Individuals can care about more than one issue. They are not mutually exclusive. And in any case, we need to get our own house in order so that, by example and influence, we can support women in other jurisdictions as well.
As the Chair of Diversity Council Australia’s Board, David Morrison AO, famously said ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept’. Well, as long as there is gender inequality, I will certainly continue to walk for (and work for) better standards for the women and the marginalised in Australia and in solidarity with those around the world. Next time, why don’t you join me?
Lisa Annese, CEO, Diversity Council Australia