March 8 marks International Women’s Day – a celebration of all we are, all we contribute and how far we have come – once relegated to the home, unable to work or vote, to now enjoying self-determination and full participation in society (in developed nations, at least). But IWD is also a stark reminder of how far women have to go to be free of gender disadvantage, which is underscored by this year’s International Women’s Day theme: Break the Bias.
In Australia, women take on the bulk of unpaid care and labour, are regularly overlooked for leadership roles, earn $239.80 less than men each week, and are disproportionately impacted by domestic and sexual violence.
Mothers are markedly more impacted by gender inequality than women who don’t have children. The motherhood penalty, which represents 39% of the gender pay gap, is a term for a mother’s cumulative years of lost income, due to unpaid parental and carer’s leave, unpaid work, and part-time employment, diminishing her ability to access and keep paid work, especially full-time work, and achieve career advancement. One in two women experience discrimination while pregnant, on maternity leave, or upon their return to work. Women spend double the time that our male counterparts do on unpaid domestic work, and we retire with half the superannuation that men do, on average. As a mother-led and mother-centric business, we see it as our duty to bring these harsh facts to light and set about changing the status quo.
When we support the women and mothers in our community, we all thrive. Diversity Council Australia highlights the business case for workplace gender equity, which has been well-documented by researchers, government, and employers who have embraced gender equity best practices, such as gender neutral paid parental leave. These benefits include improvements to national productivity and competitiveness, as well as enhanced profitability, market share, employee retention, performance, and talent acquisition, and reduced turnover and legal vulnerability at an individual business level.
Clearly, we mamas bring a lot to the table: providing the bulk of care for the next generation of humans, who will shape our future world, contributing to our economy, and helping our homes run like well-oiled machines. But this heavy load creates a huge mental and physical burden, and we deserve to be adequately supported and compensated for our contributions.
Because the postpartum period is a time of huge physical, emotional, social, and economic change for women, we believe it is a critical period in a mother’s life, with the ability to shape her future mental and physical wellbeing and impact her economic security. Even amongst the small group of women at Golden Month HQ, we’ve felt this impact firsthand, with postnatal depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, fatigue, and nutrient deficiencies compounding the mental and physical demands of unpaid care and domestic work and delaying our readiness to return to work and study.
Up to one in five mothers experience postnatal depression and anxiety, with risk factors including birth trauma, isolation, and inadequate support. The World Health Organisation (WHO) supports the link between social support and positive maternal mental health outcomes. Some research suggests that deficiency of key nutrients, including iron, zinc, and magnesium, could also be implicated in postnatal depression. We feel privileged and honoured to help counter these risks by providing complementary healthcare, social support, and nutrient dense, plant-based food to the mamas in our community. We promote equitable access to these essentials by donating to mothers in need, providing flexible and customisable payment plans, and offering quick and nutritious DIY meal and snack bases, because we believe that comprehensive postpartum support should not be exclusive to the wealthy. By supporting mothers to achieve optimal health and wellbeing postpartum, we hope to knock down some of the barriers they face in smashing out their work and life goals after baby.
Supporting mothers to breastfeed successfully is another aspect of postpartum care that we pride ourselves on, providing our Golden Mamas with home-delivered nutrition, easy, DIY meal and snack bases to support lactation, and effective, traditional remedies for breastfeeding impediments, like mastitis and low milk supply. The United Nations and the WHO recognise that breastfeeding contributes to enhanced maternal health, reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, two leading causes of death in women. Breastfeeding is said to be critical to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, improving nutrition, preventing child mortality, reducing the risk of non-communicable disease, and acting as ‘an enabler to ending poverty, promoting economic growth, and reducing inequalities’. Despite the widely acknowledged benefits of breastfeeding to both women and children, Australia falls well short of the WHOs recommendation that infants exclusively breastfeed for at least six months. 96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding, but after five months, only one quarter are still exclusively breastfeeding, indicating huge shortfalls in lactation education and support, breastfeeding-friendly workplaces, and social attitudes to breastfeeding. Providing new mothers with advice, encouragement, and nutritious food, and recommending professional lactation help in the face of any problems, can help to improve breastfeeding rates, and create an equitable, sustainable future for all.
While we wait for improved government and business policy and investment to promote gender equality, we can each take action to create a better reality for the women and mothers in our communities, and ourselves. Every time we choose to buy from a woman-led business, ask for a pay rise, support a women’s charity, commit to hiring or mentoring women, implement or campaign for family-friendly practices in our workplaces, negotiate the equal division of chores at home and provide social support to a woman or new mum in need, these actions combine to level the playing field for all of us. We sisters have always done it for ourselves, banding together to support each other, our country and our economy and demand what is rightfully ours. This International Women’s Day, take some time to reflect on everything you’ve achieved as a woman, the adversity you’ve overcome and how you can break the bias and drive gender equality in your own life.
Stunning image credit: @emmajadephotographer by @zarparbebe