Today is equal pay day and yet again we are still talking about the future and when men and woman will be paid the same. This topic of conversation is one that always surprised my students. They had learnt in Sociology, Business Studies and maybe even General Studies that we had equality in pay. My students could cite the year that the equal pay act came in effect and they truly believed that all was equal now. They would confidently tell me that it must be equal now because there is a minimum wage that is not set by gender and that it is against the law to discriminate on gender. Yet that discrimination does still exist and woman are still earning less than men – it is just more hidden.
Equal pay day and why we still need feminism
Today marks the day that from now until the end of the year woman are essentially working for free. Both vertical and horizontal discrimination is in existence, women often work in different sectors to men where the work is low paid, think caring, think retail. Women often work part time to juggle the demands of childcare and family responsibility. Again this work is often lower paid than the full time equivalent. Part time work gives little opportunity for promotion and bonuses in the workplace. Again there is a motherhood disadvantage where mothers lose out on promotions and further training opportunities because of family and caring commitments.
It would take my optimistic students are while to understand this indirect discrimination. It doesn’t become apparent before you work in the real world. We are blinded by legislation that we think tackles discrimination head on.
I took my teen daughter to watch Suffragette. We were both moved by it, especially at the end as the credits rolled and it becomes apparent that the right to vote is still only now happening in some parts of the world. It is easy to believe that feminism is not needed anymore and that the battles have been won. If only that were true.
Men and women are still needed to speak out and acknowledge that we don’t live in a fair society, that women are still disadvantaged. I want my daughter and her friends to earn the same as her male friends. They work just as hard as the boys, they have ambition and they are determined. I don’t want my daughter to effectively work for free for seven weeks a year, according to the Official Statistics the average male earns £16.77 per hour for a full time job compared with the average for women being £14.39
Too many people know this and yet this gender gap still exists with no signs of closing. We need to tell our girls they are worth more, we need to teach our girls that seeking promotions, challenging the status quo and taking jobs in the traditionally male dominated areas will be good for them. In Britain we are going to have a real shortage in the STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. We need to do more to get girls involved and challenge the stereotypes that still exist.
I am incredibly proud of my teen who is strong willed, determined and proving that girls can be whatever they want to be. We now have advertisers for brands such as Barbie telling girls they can be whatever they want, Dove are championing girls in their no likes needed campaign. This all demonstrates that feminism is still very much needed in 2015.