International Women’s Day – is it needed?

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Today is International Women’s Day, so I thought it was timely to reflect on perceptions of women’s place in UK society, and ask the question: International Women’s Day – is it needed?

A recent survey published by Sky News suggested a majority of Britons think feminism has gone far enough.  But has it?  There are clear contradictions within the findings.

  • 70% of people think men are paid more than women for the same work;
  • 65% believe a man will be favoured over an equally qualified woman, yet:

a total of 67% of Britons think feminism has either gone too far (40%) or gone as far it should go (27%)

Perplexingly, women themselves are almost as prone to thinking that enough is enough.

  • 61% of women either think feminism has gone too far (35%) or has gone far enough (26%).

Whether or not this recent finding is a manifestation of the increasing refrain of “PC gone mad” is a matter of speculation. However, it’s disappointing that attitudes seem to be so at odds with reality.

That said, some progress is being made. UK companies employing more than 250 people now have less than a month until they have to report their gender pay gaps. I suspect that will leave many scrabbling to reach some kind of balance.  Others may, as has been done for many years, identify that a small or reducing gap means that enough is being done.

Yet, while the gender pay gap is widest for the over 40s, alarmingly the gap for people in their 20s has been increasing. There really is no room for complacency.

Article 23.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work

80 years ago this coming December, the UK signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1970, the Government passed the Equal Pay Act. Other forms of discrimination were pulled together in the Equalities Act 2010. Yet we still don’t seem able to deliver the non-discriminating, fair society to which those commitments aspire.  Everyone has a value, and everyone should be respected.

It’s sad to think that, 110 years since its origin in the USA, there is still a need for International Women’s Day. And while the UK is significantly better than many countries, we still have a very, very long way to go until women are truly treated as equals in all aspects of society.

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