Today is International Women’s Day.
The first International Women’s Day took place in 1909. Back then, we were campaigning for voting rights and better pay.
Here we are in 2016 and we’re now allowed to vote! Hooray!
But women are paid on average 19.2% less than men. So if you’re a woman on £25,000, your male counterparts are getting paid, on average, £29,775. That’s £4,775 less for being a woman.
100 years accepting inequality
For over 100 years, we’ve openly acknowledged there’s a problem, without actually making it go away. Even gloomier: the World Economic Forum reckon it’ll take until 2133 to close the gender gap.
Here’s something worse for you to mull over: in 2014 they thought it would take until 2095 to close the gender gap. So, in summary, women are getting an even rawer deal than we thought a couple of years ago.
We’re going backwards.
In 2018, big firms with over 250 employees will have to start openly publishing the difference between what they pay men and women.
So in a mere 2 years (LOL, 2 years? That’s an unnecessarily long time), we’ll have a better idea who the worst culprits are.
Congratulations for paying women…less?
In 2016, a large company (who I’m not going to name here) jumped the gun and published details of their gender pay gap for the first time.
They’re the first of the “Big Four” to publish these numbers – an achievement they’re keen to publicise.
Should we be patting them on the back for their openness?
I don’t think so, no. Being aware that you’re paying women 15.1% less in 2014 – and somehow managing to increase this pay gap to 15.3% by 2015 isn’t a good thing.
More concerning: this large company has been measuring their pay gap for 10 years. Yep, 10 years of number crunching without a fix.
Well, folks, after a 10-year wait, I think I have the answer…
EVERYONE SIT DOWN AND TAKE OUT YOUR NOTEPADS – APPARENTLY IT’S A VERY, VERY, COMPLICATED CONCEPT TO UNDERSTAND:
Pay women and men the same.
There you go, pay gap issue fixed. We can all go home now.
“We are sleepwalking into inequality”
But there’s even more going on than women needing equal pay.
Of all the articles, events, books and chats I’ve experienced, Emma Barnett’s TEDx talk last year holds my favourite explanation. I’ve shared it below, and I hope you’ll take the time (17 minutes) to listen to the whole thing.
“The sexism of today, the discrimination of today, whatever you want to call it…it doesn’t come with a slap on the arse and, “Hi, sweetheart.” It’s subtle. We are sleepwalking into inequality.”
Yes, we need to measure the problem à la that large company I already mentioned. We then need to use that information to actually fix the problem.
I’m not talking by 2133. Mate, let’s be honest, I’ll be long dead by then and money probably won’t even exist anymore.
Acknowledge the problem and do something
We need to look forward and stop being complacent. Clearly, just because very large companies are beginning to tell us they care, doesn’t mean they’re doing anything useful about it.
Browsing Twitter on the day of our Brighton Digital Women March meetup, I came across a simple, but poignant, quote from Jill Huntley. It really resonated with me and puts into words an uncomfortable feeling I’ve had of late:
“There’s a difference between what gets said and what gets done for diversity.”
This International Women’s Day I urge you to learn about the issues girls and women face – you can take a look here at the official International Women’s Day website for an excellent summary.
But – and here’s the key – don’t wallow in the numbers. Do something to fix them. Especially if you’re in a powerful position: don’t wait until 2133 for your gender inequality to go away. Please just fix it.
If you want help with your own career, or need advice on how to advance the women who work for you – please come along to our next meetup.
We aren’t a club, you don’t need a secret handshake to come along, you don’t even need to be a woman. We’re actually here to help and this is not just another stupid publicity stunt.
Co-founder of Brighton Digital Women and founder of Unramble. I like words and equality.