8th March is International Women’s Day. To say it has been a roller coaster year for women’s rights would be a massive understatement.
We have seen the low points of the Harvey Weinstein saga, in turn whistleblowing and exposing the true extent of sexual harassment in entertainment and media, and in the UK revelations about the extent of sexual harassment in Parliament.
On a brighter note, we have seen the emergence of the #MeToo, #TimesUp, International Woman’s Day #PressForChange and other, similar movements gaining momentum. Whilst it is sad they have been necessary, they have a huge impact in bringing systematic problems into sharp, public, focus.
100 years on from partial women’s suffrage in the UK, some of the stats on women’s rights and equality are not just disappointing, they are downright atrocious.
According to 2016 research from the TUC, over half of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work. http://everydaysexism.com/
Gender Pay Gap
At current rates of change there are suggestions it will be 100 years before the gender pay gap is closed.
- According to the Office for National Statistics The gender pay gap, stood at 14.1% in 2017 with no movement in the last three years.
- Women in their 50s are paid on average 18.6% less than their male colleagues.
- The gender pay gap for women in their 20s is much smaller, but has been widening recently, and is now five times greater than it was six years ago. There was a notable increase, from 1.1% in 2011 to 5.5% in 2017.
There are a number of factors driving change which provide grounds for hope of change.
Despite mixed messages from leadership, certainly in the UK and the US, there are a number of trends suggesting things might be headed in the right direction. Gender pay gap reporting for larger organisations from April 2017 is a step forward. How open to manipulation it is remains to be seen. Some may of course validly point towards backwards steps in 2013 under the Equality Act, lessening the responsibility of employers for harassment of staff by third parties.
Whilst things such as equal pay reporting have shown themselves at times susceptible to manipulation, there is little doubt that with the arrival of big data it is increasingly easy to measure and report wholesale differentiation in treatment or abuse.
#MeToo has shown the power of social media to spread messages, and harness opinion quickly, although the jury remains out on how easy it is to sustain such campaigns.
Ethics lead consumer behaviour
The power of ethics lead consumer behaviour to influence business has been slow recently in the USA with a number of suppliers changing their relationships with the NRA. We believe that this will become an increasing influence on business in the area of equality, including on basis of gender.
What About You?
If you are on the receiving end of a harassment at work, limited in your career by the glass ceiling or receiving inferior pay for the same work, steady change is, not enough. Whether directly affected or not we all have a duty to push harder and quicker for societies which are truly gender equal. We also have a duty not just to do that in our own circle, our own firm or our own society, but to make quick, global and lasting change, not a distant dream but a reality. What better time to start than International Women’s Day.
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