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International Women’s Day…What do the cupcakes achieve?

Updated: Mar 9

By Sheree King

In contemporary Australia, IWD is celebrated with unprecedented enthusiasm, as workplaces and communities alike host a plethora of events ranging from morning teas to panel discussions and race days. Yet, amidst the sea of cupcakes and luncheons, a pressing question arises: have these celebrations become mere tokenistic gestures, a superficial nod to gender equality without substantive action?


The proliferation of IWD events suggests a growing awareness of gender issues in society. However, there is a danger that these events may inadvertently trivialize the core objectives of IWD, reducing it to a once-a-year spectacle rather than a catalyst for meaningful change.


Are workplaces simply ticking the box by distributing cupcakes and holding a luncheon, or are they actively working towards dismantling systemic barriers and promoting gender equality in tangible ways?


At the heart of this debate lies the question of what IWD is fighting for now. In an era marked by unprecedented social and technological advancements, the struggles faced by women have evolved, but the underlying principles remain the same. Women continue to grapple with issues such as the gender pay gap, workplace discrimination, lack of representation in leadership roles, and gender-based violence.


While some businesses boast a 0% equal pay gap as a measure of success, it's crucial to recognise that they may still have a gender pay gap. So, what sets them apart?


The gender pay gap quantifies the difference in total earnings between women and men. It disregards factors such as job nature, level, or location. Expressed as a percentage of men's average earnings, negative values indicate higher earnings for women, while positive values suggest the opposite. Notably, the gender pay gap does not compare similar roles.


In contrast, equal pay ensures that women and men receive identical compensation for performing the same job or different work of equal or comparable value, contingent upon performance. It's essential to emphasise that gender pay gaps do not directly compare similar roles. While addressing the equal pay gap is important, it's imperative to understand that the journey doesn't end there. We must not only tackle the equal pay gap but also address the gender pay gap.


In the spirit of Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg, who championed the rights of women in the early 20th century, there is a need for modern-day activists to confront these challenges head-on. Where are the voices calling for substantive policy changes to address gender inequality in the workplace? Where are the leaders advocating for intersectional feminism, recognising the unique struggles faced by women of colour, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and other marginalised groups?


IWD must serve as more than just a day of symbolic gestures—it must be a call to action, a rallying cry for systemic change. It is a day to honour the legacies of past trailblazers and amplify the voices of those who continue to fight for gender equality in all its forms. It is a day to challenge the status quo, disrupt the narrative, and push for progress towards a more inclusive and equitable society.


As we commemorate IWD each year, let us not lose sight of its true purpose. Let us move beyond tokenistic gestures and commit ourselves to meaningful action. Let us honour the spirit of Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg by continuing their fight for justice, equality, and dignity for all women, not just on March 8th, but every day.


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