Feminism: when the paradigm shift is in ourselves

Disclaimer: This post was originally released in Spanish. I have tried to do my best when translating it!

It seemed to me that, on International Women’s Day, it would be a good time to reflect on feminism, how I understand it, and what things could we do to improve the current situation of women in many ways. I have had this post in mind for the last few months, but it was this international women’s day that encouraged me to take a while to write those thoughts in a post.

It is not the first time that I stir up about feminism in this blog, but as you can see throughout this text, in the last 4 years I have evolved in my way of addressing this issue.

The starting point for this reflection on feminism was in November last year, when I was invited to be part of the opening panel of the congress of the Spanish Association of Physiotherapists. An event that I was looking forward to, as it would be my reunion with many colleagues and friends whom I had not seen for a long time. The fact is that shortly after finishing the opening ceremony I found this tweet that made me reflect a lot for the following weeks. It was true, at the opening panel of a national congress there were only men represented when currently, 64% of physiotherapists in Spain are women. It can confirm that in almost all that conference panels there were a high women representation, even some panels were exclusively made by women presenting, but the photo that was left for the press, the image that remains, is a non-real image, of a profession led only by men (Here you have and some evidence of that). In disclaimer of the organisers of the congress, I will say that in this case there were reasons beyond their control and agenda issues of some women already invited to the panel motivated this photo. But this is not an excuse to keep working in looking for the mechanisms that allow us to reach that real representation of the women in all professional levels, especially in those leadership roles to which they still have limited access.

If we take a look at the two most important meetings in the physiotherapy scene in Spain in 2020 we see that in SEFID congress last February there were barely 13% of female speakers (3 women of 22 speakers) and at Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine meeting next May barely exceeds 20% (8 women out of 39 speakers and in this case only participating in 2 panels, 5 of them together at the same panel about women in sports). Really? Isn’t there any single female physiotherapist in Spain trained to talk about sports physiotherapy without being limited to clinical practice in women? Objective data shows that we still need to progress quite a lot in this regard to achieve a gender balance in the representation of physiotherapy in our country.

I have been involved in national congresses not so long ago and I can assure that it never occurred to me that it was my responsibility as an organiser to worry about gender balance in terms of presenters (Better late than never.!)

All this should lead us to the following questions: Do we assume as normal that there is little female representation in events that impact our profession? Do women have less chance of accessing leadership positions? Is the role of women less visible within physiotherapy?

But to start a serious and deep reflection, first thing to do is to looking inward and try to get rid of our own biases. Because each one of us is determined by our education, the family model in which we has been educated, our work and social environment or even how our religious values can (or can’t) represent a bias when exercising an active feminism Even more, what are the social needs of the time in which we live?. In my opinion, to help foster a social model in which women can reach the same place as men, we must be willing to recognise that some things that have seemed normal throughout our lives, maybe are not . To realise about that we have to make a reflection as deep as it is broad, covering almost all areas of our life (family, work, social … even in the way in which we communicate).

Perhaps that is why I believe that the true paradigm shift is that men are able to assume their role in the development of feminist policies. That is why I find this quote from the male champions for change website highly inspiring: “It all started with a simple idea: We need more decent, powerful men to step up beside women in building a gender equal world.

Therefore, if I wanted is to help things change, the first step was to do some research about how I could do it. I took some time to look thought some materials about this issue I could share in this post to show some added value and that was not left in a simple philosophical approach. So…there we go!

Going back to my first reflection of this post and in relation to the visibility of women in public events I encourage you to read proposals such as the one by Owen Barder in which you can sign a pledge called: «I will not be part of male-only panels«. The FAQs next to the pledge are simply great.

In the same way, the document on gender balance in every forum is very interesting, as the need to implement gender balance policies is argued from different perspectives and some tools are given to carry out this implementation. I also suggest that you take a look at the Gender champion website where you will find interesting information on this topic.

From an business perspective, it would be interesting to use the Women’s Empowerment Principles Gap Analysis Tool, to see to what degree an organisation has gender equality according to the following 4 fields: Commitment, implementation , measurement and accountability.

Another interesting document from the business point of view is the 2015 KPMG women’s leadership study where the keys to reach leadership positions for women are analysed.

If we look to the future in the medium or long term, I believe that exercising an active feminism means being able to educate future generations on gender equality. But beware! I have said to educate and not «indoctrinate» (which is not the same) and unfortunately, many of our politicians seem not to understand the difference between these two terms.

In a time when I see around me quite a lot of demagogy on issues as sensitive as feminism, I have to admit that it has been hard for me to sit down for writing this post because the last thing I would like to is to give ammunition to someone with a polarised opinion on the issue. But there are times when you have to be brave and I hope you find this text, in the good sense of the word, and always with respect, because as I said before, active feminism is not about confronting, but to integrating.

I don’t want you to get bored with an extremely long post so, just as today is Sunday (the kind’a day for a blanket, couch and movie stuff) I recommend you to enjoy a movie we saw on active feminism called “On the basis of sex”. A biopic based on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, second woman to be appointed judge of the US Supreme Court and who opened the way to change many laws in her country to achieve greater gender equality.

I am aware that this topic would give to write an entire book, but it seems to me that for now I have fulfilled the purpose of this post. If you have reached here, I hope you enjoyed reading.

PS: For the writing of this post I would like to acknowledge Jonathon Kruger and Freya Rodger, with whom I had some highly inspiring conversations when in the office, that made me feel interested to do some research on this topic. Also to Zulema Gancedo for giving me a lot of information about female leadership that I reviewed when I was preparing this post.

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