Another International Women’s Day. Another year of men sighing, rolling their eyes and asking “What about International Men’s Day?”.* “Aren’t we all considered equal now?” “Enough with having to make a point!”. But are women actually equal?
When I was growing up in the late 70s and 80s in Liverpool, it was a time of political unrest and racial tension. We saw riots on the streets not very far from where I lived. Since then, as a society it *feels* like we have come a long way, there has been more acceptance of difference and laws have been put in place to try and redress those open inequalities.
My own childhood saw both of my parents trying to better their circumstances and attending college, night school and university whilst trying to juggle also working, keeping a home running and organising three children (one of which was born during this period). This definitely had an impact on my view of the necessity of education and resulted in me not even questioning going to University after school. It was a foregone conclusion and expectation was high, which in retrospect did place a certain amount of pressure on me. But this type of foregone conclusion was not the case for many of my friends in an all-girls school, who had no expectation other than to leave school at 16 and get a job somewhere.
I think as you get older you have a more balanced view of the world and appreciate that academia is not for everyone. People have different strengths and weaknesses and are not usually judged on their academic ability in order to be considered a success in their chosen career. And likewise, we should not judge others based on factors which have no bearing on their ability to carry out a job, this includes gender.
For the vast majority of people today, to consider someone unable to do their job based on their gender would be considered ridiculous. However, it isn’t so much the overt discrimination which continues to be such an issue, although this is still happening and is unacceptable, there are at least steps that can be taken for redress. It is the covert, “undercover” or unawareness of using gender to make decisions which in my opinion is still an issue today and I don’t know how we can change this.
According to recent statistics**
The full time gender pay gap is 10% and for those in part time positions this rises to 34.5%.
Approximately 70% of people in national minimum wage jobs are women.
Women make up only 17% board of directors of FTSE 100 companies.
Women are still struggling in the work place to be seen as equal to men, it is as simple as that. Although great strides have been made, somehow women don’t seem to be promoted to as many top positions as men. In my experience it seems that women have to work twice as hard to prove themselves equal to their male counterparts and then struggle to be heard with a voice of authority. It is not a big surprise that a lot of women at the “top” are quite tough and can not be seen to be emotive and sensitive as this is “not what leaders do”.
And yet are we missing a trick? Is this one of our best qualities as women? A good manager surely can be tough when required and have empathy and kindness for their staff without being walked all over. If a male manager was like this, he would be considered a great boss and yet if it was a woman, the empathy and kindness could be considered as a sign of weakness…
I think the solidarity of male only Societies, golf clubs etc. where a lot of business takes place does not help the case of women feeling included and it does not do much to level the playing field. But then I don’t think that women help themselves at times. Although they can be placed in a position where they have to work so hard to be recognised, in many cases the competitive edge required to climb the career ladder means that their female colleagues are viewed as a threat. They do not work together like their male counterparts, they work in isolation and this cycle continues where male colleagues are able to help each other out and up.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission estimates it will take 70 years at the current rate of progress to see an equal number of female and male directors of FTSE 100 companies.
We need to stop the cycle continuing and start being true to ourselves. But we also need to start working together as women- 70 years is an unacceptably long time to wait for equality.
*19th November 2016 is International Men's Day