Every year on the 8th March the world is encouraged to celebrate International Women’s Day.
This year marks the 100 year anniversary of women being allowed to join the RAF in this country, and also 100 years since women were granted the right to vote (the initial legislation permitting this applied only to women over the age of 30 who met certain criteria) which was of course a huge milestone in British history and gave around 8.4million women the right to voice their opinions.
Today, though it is fair to say that women still linger behind males, as a country we have taken great strides towards true gender equality, something which is demonstrated by the fact that in Britain our Monarch, Prime Minister, Home Secretary, Scottish first Minister, Head of London Fire Service and Head of the Met Police are all female; 50 years ago this would have been nigh on impossible.
However, in spite of the above positive things to highlight, the 8th March also puts a spotlight on a very current issue – Equal Pay. The gender pay gap has been quite a high profile media and government issue over the last year particularly. Despite equal pay legislation being introduced in 1970 a gender pay gap still exists today. According to the Office of National Statistics, women are still paid 24.6% less than their male counterparts in skilled trades.
The gender pay gap in round terms means that, compared to men in the same job, women work for around 67 days of the year without pay. So if we take that from 1 January, many women will have working for free this year so far – and the irony of the date upon which the 67th day falls is not lost on me. It is staggering that there still remains such a disparity in equality of pay.
The theme for this years’ International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress. It is heavily focused upon the issue of equality of pay.
The UK government have already started to put pressure on employers to narrow the gender pay gap, starting with the requirement that all companies in Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) with more than 250 employees must report their gender pay gap to the Government Equalities Office (GEO). All public bodies are due to report by 30 March 2018 and all companies are due to report by 4 April 2018. Companies will also publish details of the proportion of men and women in the company who receive bonuses and the breakdown of men and women in different pay quartiles.
This will provide some extremely interesting data and no doubt will encourage those large organisations to work towards eliminating any gender pay gaps they have. There are no government plans to punish companies that have a wide gender pay gap, but the government has stated that it will publish sector-specific league tables, highlighting companies failing to address pay differences between men and women. This is likely to mean that greater pressure may come from companies’ own employees and scrutiny from competitors and in the media.
I would hope that the embarrassment factor alone of that information becoming public would push things in the right direction. I hope that smaller organisations will either voluntarily or be asked to follow suit.
So, happy International Women’s Day – I would encourage all businesses and employers to take stock of and consider their pay scales, and to ensure that they work towards eliminating any disparity of pay based on gender.
Author: Sarah Naylor