In 1813 Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, highlighted social and financial inequality at home and work. Fast forward to the eve of International Women’s Day 2017 and these issues still exist but they’re not just about money.
Property laws in 19th-century England unashamedly favoured men. A woman could not inherit her husband’s or father’s estate.
Rather, it would pass on to the male next of kin. Women were at the mercy of male family members; hence Mrs Bennet’s obsession with finding single men “in possession of a good fortune” for her five daughters.
What a cruel world it was for a woman. But have we’ve come a long way, haven’t we?
We might still be infatuated with the fairy tale of love and a modern version of Mr Darcy, but society has made significant progress over the past 200 hundred years.
Women can own and inherit property. We can start businesses. We can run corporations. We can make a decent, dignified living in all areas of industry.
We can even become the Prime Minister. Is there any frontier we have not yet reached? Yes, financial inequality at work.
On average, the woman earns less than the man for similar employment. She also has 20% to 30% less super.
This is often blamed on earning a lower income and taking career breaks to care for children.
Women’s liberation is still not a done deal. If it was, domestic disparity and the gender pay gap would no longer exist.
The next step to true equality is for women to become empowered in their personal relationships.
I believe that what we think is a private matter – sharing the housework – is a public one.
The men we deal with at work have wives, too.
Persistent inequality at home means persistent inequality at work.
We would not be having the same conversations about the gender pay gap in the workforce if we could deal with gender inequality at home.
Closing the gap is not just about money.
This isn’t simply a financial transaction. For many women, their work is not only about the pay.
They find fulfilment in making a difference, solving complex problems, and being productive and responsible members of society.
They also want to leave this world a better place for their children. They want to be good role models for their daughters and raise well-balanced, caring sons.
But to do this, they need their male partners on board.
Continuing along the path of “women can do it all” is not the way to go. It’s silently killing us. Despite what we may think, it’s not keeping the peace at home or at work.
Domestic disparity creates friction that saps a woman’s energy. It does nothing except keep us “in our place”.
It victimises us and compromises what we believe to be true: that we are equal.
Financial independence can be achieved through equality.
Remember, the true aim of financial independence is to ensure that we leave the world a more equal, just and prosperous place.
Our girls and boys will thank us for it. They look to us to live their lives without fear; to live with purpose and meaning. They are waiting for us to lead them.