5 issues we need to talk about on International Women's Day
The stage for change was set at the close of 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano put out a tweet calling women who had faced sexual assault to raise a virtual hand: “If all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”. Within a day, her post had more than 38,000 comments, 13,000 retweets, and 27,000 likes. Actresses and models throughout America and Europe stepped forward to tell their stories of abuse and sexual harassment at the hands of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as the ‘#TimesUp’ campaign snowballed. The subsequent communal cry for justice and transparency didn’t stop there: 2018 has seen the ramifications of #MeToo sweeping across the worlds of modeling, fashion and professional swimming, with perpetrators and ingrained sexist and abusive cultures continuing to be outed.
2. The rise of femtech
January 2018 saw increased demand for women’s equality, this time in the tech space. When CES, the world’s largest consumer technology trade show, held in Las Vegas, announced its all-male speaker line-up for the second year running, the backlash was immediate. Responding to the pressure, Consumer Technology Association's Gary Shapiro announced that his team would “redouble our efforts to expand women's voices”, with the rapid addition of two female speakers. People, including JP Morgan Chase's CMO, Kristin Lemkau, took to social media to list the names of women who they would like to see give a keynote at CES. We’d also add Elvie co-founder and CEO Tania Boler, who will be speaking at the WIRED Health event in London next week, to the list.
3. Job opportunities need to be more diverse
42% of working women in the UK do so parttime. In February the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report examining the pay and career progression of part-time workers, including many mothers, highlighting that: “The effect of part-time work in shutting down wage progression is especially striking.” The report found that by the time a couple's first child is aged 20, many mothers earn nearly a third less than the fathers – largely due to the decision to work part-time. Cue a renewed focus on part-time work as a feminist issue. Elvie proudly supports working mothers with job sharing opportunities.
4. Pregnancy shouldn't be a penalty
Overt discrimination in recruitment was described as “shockingly common”, by the UK equality commission in February, as a YouGov survey of 1,106 senior decision-makers showed a third of those working for private companies thought it was reasonable to ask a woman about her plans to have children in the future during the recruitment process. 59% said a woman should have to disclose if she is pregnant and almost half (46%) said it was also reasonable to ask a woman if she had small children. Campaign website ‘Pregnant then Screwed’ wrote in response: “Women are very capable of using their brain and their uterus simultaneously…The discrimination which occurs at the recruitment stage is rarely discussed because it is almost impossible to prove and often women are facing discrimination without even realizing it.” Time for recruiters to pull their socks up and keep questions about family planning and assumptions about pregnant women to themselves.
5. Women DO mind the pay gap
Helping women to reach their full potential isn't only the right thing to do, it makes “good economic sense”, said UK Women and Equalities minister Justine Greening in support of a new legal requirement for all UK companies with 250 or more employees to publish their gender pay gaps by April 4 2018. So, the debate around gender pay is far from over – in fact, we may only have seen the tip of the iceberg. BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie has already publicly resigned from her post on the basis of pay inequality with male international editors, with support expressed by many under the hashtag #IStandWithCarrie. Major companies, including Ladbrokes, Easyjet, and Virgin Money, have published gender pay gaps of more than 15% in favor of men for mean hourly pay. Watch this space: there’s revelation to come, and in its wake, long overdue fairer pay for working women.
Want to make a difference for women’s equality this International Women’s Day? Visit the International Women’s Day website and make your pledge: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Pledge
This post was written by guest author Lucinda van der Hart. Lucinda is a freelance writer and social media manager