Inequality Still Persists – International Women’s Day 2019
‘Inequality still persists’ a quote from Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt the Minister for Women and Equality. It’s 2019, and yet for women around the world, even in Western countries such as ours, inequality is still very real.
We’ve made progress, but there is still so much to be done; to put women on an equal playing field with men, to smash that glass ceiling, to make the world a better place for our children and our daughters.
If you think inequality no longer exists, let me share a few stats with you. There are still more men called Steve or Stephen who are bosses of FTSE 100 companies than there are women.
- The gender pay gap is still 17.9%
- This peaks when women are 50 when they earn 26% less than men
- When women retire they will have 25% less pension than men
- On average women provide 74% of the childcare in a household and are three times more likely to work part time
- The average pay rise of a women in her 20s before she has children is 6% per year, this reduces to 0% or insignificant when she moved to part time work post children
Shocking figures are they not?
Monday morning saw me on a train far earlier than I have been on in a long time, heading off to London for a meeting at Westminster. I’d been invited to take part in a stakeholder forum by the Government’s Office of Inequality in the lead up to International Women’s Day. Something I felt privileged to be a part of.
The room was filled with influential people from around the country, all discussing what changes needed to be done in order to get this country to where it needs to be, to rebalance the inequality that women experience. I also had a huge case of imposter-syndrome wondering why on earth I had been invited. I couldn’t find any childcare for Bo, and was told I was welcome to bring him. But I stuck out like a sore thumb as the only mother there with a child.
Then as I started to share and take part in the conversation around the table on the different points it came to me, I was there to be a voice for the women that share their stories with me, through my blog, through social media, through emails I receive. Stories of ordinary women who know how real the struggle is, who are passionate about doing the best for their families, who have suffered from a fair amount of discrimination and have sucked it up because they have no other choice. All you need to do is look at the amazing work of Pregnant then Screwed to see just how unfair the world of work can be. Not always of course, let me just say there are some amazing employers out there which is fantastic to see, but we still have a long way to go.
Motherhood is an amazing blessing which I would never ever want to change. But it has changed my life and my career irrevocably. I am now content and happy with where I am, but I want the world to be different for my children. Every career decision that I make is made around my family now and they will always come first. I’ve said goodbye to a career that just wasn’t working with my work life and family balance. But life has taken me in a new direction, one I am both excited and grateful for.
Vicki, from Honest Mum who was also at the meeting on Monday, shared on her blog today ‘Why Mothers Need To Speak Up and Ask for Help More‘ she talks about the both time and financial burden mothers face, caring not just for children but for parents in their old age too. How we are mis sold unrealistic expectations of what the motherhood juggle will look like, an article that really resonated with me.
It’s not just discrimination against mothers that needs to change. It’s women’s fundamental rights to be equal. To be supported through the menopause when they’re at work, to be educated from a young age in a fair and balanced way, to have proper sanitary products during their periods. To live safely and freely from sexual assault and domestic violence. We need to see more women in senior positions, more flexible working and a change in the way companies operate. I would personally love to see more senior managers that job share, less 9 to 5 contracts and actually an overall reduction in full time work. This is something that would benefit so many people in different walks of life, men as well as women. We need to take away the stigma of shared parental leave and men taking on more caring roles.
But what also occurs to me as I write this is we need to stop seeing children as a burden or an inconvenience on society, a childcare problem to solve. Children are the future and the core of society that should be embraced. As I was feeling uncomfortable for bringing Bo to the meeting and sneaking to the back to breastfeed, a woman came up to me and thanked me for bringing him. After all, she said this it what it’s all about. If this was a matriarchal society she said, this is what meetings and the workplace would look like. Women would bring in their children, they would feed them if they would needed feeding, workplaces would be child friendly and we would still get the work done. Now isn’t that an amazing vision?
In the past year we have seen significant improvement, with Ireland voting by a landslide to legalise abortion (we just need Northern Ireland to follow now), up-skirting has become illegal, from 2020 menstrual health is going to be taught in schools, we’ve had the powerful #metoo movement which has laid bare so much sexual discrimination and misconduct.
Some of the changes we need to see now may very well take a generation to deliver. It takes time for fundamental change to happen. But right now we can all make a difference, by questioning the way we think, the way things are, just because things have always been so doesn’t make it right. We must keep questioning and pushing to keep things moving forward for a better future for women.