The glass ceiling
They want us to feel constrained, confined and downright uncomfortable.
We as women have been pushed into a room with this glass ceiling. We can see male privilege; it is right in front or should I say above us - yet when we scream at the injustice and beat at the ceiling with all our might, it remains unscathed.
We can feel their superiority, we are aware of the difference in wages; we are outraged at our objectification in the media.
We continue to kick and scream, attempting to obliterate the glass ceiling but it is welded together with years of victim blaming, centuries of patriarchy and a lifetime of habit.
But what if we - both men and women - united on a scale so large that it could not be ignored, could we smash the ceiling to smithereens? What would New Zealand look like?
With the eyes of a self-proclaimed idealist I see a world of genuine equality. One that recognises that gender equality is not a female right, it is a human right. Both men and women are disadvantaged by the status quo.
Imagine a world where both young boys and girls are taught that voicing our opinions with passion does not mean that you are bossy instead, we are showing grit and leadership potential.
A world where half of each government is comprised of women opposed to our current average of only 22 per cent. Taught that you can be a rugby player, CEO or housewife and still be considered a strong woman.
Where a close friend of mine does not break down whilst telling me about one late night walking home after touch training, blaming herself because ‘she was wearing short shorts’ and should have gotten picked up straight from school.
Where I do not have to convince her that despite what society tells her she is not to blame.
We, especially those who are supposed to be carrying out justice, still need to learn that the question ‘but what were you wearing?’ is not acceptable to even mutter.
But to imagine is easy, because we are fully aware of the injustices that take place. Here we are looking through the glass, from our different perspectives daily.
But, how? How could we reach a state of equality?
In order to inch closer to equality we need to first evaluate the self. To unlearn the stereotypes ingrained in our society and to judge others based solely on who they are as a person.
To open ourselves up to change may be uncomfortable, to defy the habits of the past is going to take time. But if we each commit to the equality that begins within the mind - we could take so many steps, together.
We also need to think about the messages we are sending, both verbally and via social media.
Language matters. Jokes that belittle others based on gender, race or non-conformity are never okay. And ‘I was just kidding’ is just cover up for being a product of an unequal society.
Whenever the possibility of targeted programmes are brought to attention, so is the ‘what about boys memo?’ But that only ignores the issue at hand. With women holding only 4.6 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO positions. In our communities, by empowering women by giving more leadership opportunities we can encourage the unlearning of this feeling of inferiority.
We need to cultivate female leadership. As companies that have women in leadership are shown to have been outperforming their competition by a third. We need more programmes that encourage genuine integration of women into fields that are predominately ‘out of reach’; we will not only diversify but improve our economy and tolerance.
I hope to live in a world of equality, achieved by changing our thought habits, in turn stigma, language and communities we will be able to create a weapon. Where, both men and women can unite to finally smash the glass ceiling.
* Latayvia Tualasea Tautai, is a final-year student at St Dominic’s College in Henderson, NZ. She has been dubbed New Zealand’s new champion of gender equality. See story page 19