By Pam Kenworthy.
The 8th of March is not far away when we can come together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. We can also use it as a platform to drive change.
In the UK there are approximately 19 million of us over 18 and nearly 15 million of us are economically active, yet we lag behind men in terms of pay and career progression.
It is more than 40 years since the Equal Pay Act and although the Institute of Fiscal Studies (2016) shows a decline in the gender pay gap amongst the lowest educated, the gap widens again after women have children. Also, for part timers there was a cumulative negative effect. For the more academically qualified there has been no change for 20 years, as women with a degree still earn 20% less than their male counterparts.
A recent TUC (2016) analysis shows the pay gap falling just 0.2% per annum. At this rate it will be 2062 (or 47 years away) before women achieve equal pay with men. I will be long dead and my daughter’s daughter will be middle aged!
A major reason for this is caused by the gender imbalance in senior posts and promotions. This is despite research showing that managerial gender diversity actually delivers better financial results, cultures & decision making.
So what can ordinary women do to challenge this continuing inequality? My thoughts are:
We need to support one another
There is plenty of evidence to show that when women work with a higher percentage of women, they experience lower levels of gender discrimination and harassment. When women have female supervisors, they report receiving more family and organisational support than when they have male supervisors. And a preponderance of studies show that when more women are in management positions, the gender pay gap is smaller.
We need to appreciate work life balance
First of all it’s important to remember that presence doesn’t mean capability or effectiveness. The ability to work long hours disappears as soon as the first small person arrives. The early years also appear to be full of sickness and school runs. These are opportunities in which women can support each other and achieve that nirvana of work-life balance where women don’t feel that they have to choose between the two. In many companies it is assumed that the only way to demonstrate dedication is to give your attention to work 24/7. Actually that’s a backdoor way of excluding women, or at least diminishing their contributions.
We need to mentor and guide one another
Taking time to talk to other women, share knowledge and experience can make a big difference. Just making a conscious effort to introduce younger women to more senior colleagues at industry or at networking events.
We need to influence decision makers
Another important way for women to help each other at work is to encourage one another to know their own value and stand up and speak out for what they want. But this does take courage.
This is all well and good (I hear you say) but as lots of us work in SME’s where firms employ less than 20 people, we are unlikely to have a “sister” looking out for us. Well this is where International Women’s Day creates an opportunity. It gives you the chance to get a few likeminded women together and organise an event so you can create your own support network.
I live in a small rural community in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire. Supported by #powertochange and solicitors Irwin Mitchell, female directors and friends of the community pub the “Anglers Rest” have arranged an event allowing women to get together to celebrate the day. We will be show-casing amazing local women and exhibiting the work of local women artists. Speakers will talk about their bold moment and we will be launching “achieve” (Achieve Hope Valley) a mentoring network to support women in their careers.
As the saying going “every little helps” and we can all do our bit to improve the futures of our daughters and their daughters. Take part! #beboldforchange!
You may also like My Women’s March On Washington and Democracy Is A Woman.
Pam Kenworthy OBE qualified as a solicitor in 1982 and was awarded an OBE for services to Legal Aid in 2014. She worked at Thompsons the trade union practice specialising in personal injury and discrimination law and also taught and lectured in employment law at both Sheffield universities and Sheffield College. On returning to legal practice Pam became a partner in regional law firm Howells in 1994 and from 2007 headed up their publicly funded telephone advice services (Community Legal Advice). She now runs her own legal services consultancy.