Living Gender Equality
March is Women’s History Month, and across various forms of media, there have been many expressions of support and solidarity for women across the world.
But expressing support for women’s rights and gender equality, and living a life of gender equality, are two different things. In an era of hashtag-led campaigns and sometimes empty symbolism, the idea of supporting women across the globe can sometimes feel like a rhetorical exercise. Why? Because it’s a lot easier said than done.
Living gender equality forces men like me (and some patriarchal women) to introspect and challenge ourselves to address issues of privilege, equity, and empowered spaces. I’ve been blessed to be with my life partner for 12 years (the past three in marriage), but I have learned the hard way about espousing support for women’s rights and actually treating my wife as an equal. I’d like to call myself a reformed male chauvinist, but that would imply being fully changed. Instead, I think a recovering chauvinist is a more apt description, and there are times when I do have to check my privilege.
This goes to the heart of why supporting women’s rights should be more than just expressing verbal support. Women entrepreneurs, particularly women of color across the world, need patronage. They are more likely to be denied access to capital than their male counterparts, and for female social entrepreneurs of color, there is often the added challenge of operating within neo-colonial spaces.
The social impact-minded women who run small businesses are often driven by concerns larger than their bottom lines. For many of these social entrepreneurs, it’s about facilitating long-lasting change, and challenging the idea that only (white) men can transform their communities. They are driven by a passion to do good, even if their voices are still largely muted within the larger marketplace.
My wife Devi’s blog, Developing Style, reflects her desire to give voice to the women who are trying to transform societies through their social entrepreneurship. Not a day goes by that I’m not in awe of how she can work a full-time job and persevere in creating original and dynamic content for her website, which carries the motto, “Global style for the global good.” Similarly, as I’ve gotten to know women like Gaayathri, I’m inspired by their passion for uplifting other small businesses owned by women. Companies like The Honest Quill provide a platform for women’s voices, and we need to do our part to support them.
I used to think my consumption should be solely based on the bottom line. But if I am truly committed to realizing gender equality, then I need to think that patronage should be more than about cost - it should be about quality, ethics, and the longer term social impact of my consumption.
If we are to honor Women’s History, we need to ensure that we patronize the social entrepreneurs who are working to make women’s future across the world more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable. To do that would exemplify what it means to practice what we preach.