Next week sees International Women's Day being celebrated around the world. As women we've come so far in achieving equality in the workplace and in wider society. But sadly we've still got a lot of work to do when it comes to tackling the gender pay gap. New research published by the TUC today reveals that the average woman has to wait nearly a fifth of a year (66 days) before she starts to get paid, compared to the average man.
The gender pay gap
This is because the gender pay gap for all full-time and part-time male and female employees currently stands at 18%. This pay gap means that across the board women effectively work for free for the first 66 days of the year, until Tuesday (7 March).
The TUC has branded this day Women's Pay Day - the day the average woman starts getting paid compared to the average man. And I'm disappointed to see that in several key industries - even where jobs are dominated by female workers - women have to wait until April or even May for their Women's Pay Day.
Looking at education, where the majority of staff are women, the gender pay gap is a staggering 27%. To translate that - this means that the average woman in education is effectively working for free for more than a quarter of the year (97 days) and has to wait until the 7 April before she starts earning.
The picture is little brighter in health and social work, where the average woman waits 69 days for her Women's Pay Day on 10 March.
The longest wait for Women's Pay Day comes in finance and insurance. There the gender pay gap is the equivalent of 137 days - more than a third of the year - before Women's Pay Day kicks in on 17 May.
I find it shocking that we still have such pay inequality nearly 50 years after the Ford strikes in Dagenham and the Equal Pay Act. But what particularly concerns me is that progress on closing the gender pay gap has almost ground to a halt. Since 2011 the full-time pay gap has fallen by just 0.2 percentage points a year. Pathetic. My colleagues here have calculated that if progress continues at this snail's pace it will take more than 40 years to achieve pay parity between men and women.
In real terms, that means that not only this generation of working women losing out on tens of thousands of pounds over their working lives just because of their gender, but that unless we take serious action now, their children will also face a severe pay penalty just for being women.
Where does the law stand?
It is illegal for companies to pay their female staff less than men for work of equal value, and employers who think they can get away with this should be challenged. But you can see that with employment tribunal fees of £1,200, far too many women can't afford to access justice and bring their bad bosses to account.
It's well cited that even in 2017 many women still struggle to break into better paid, male-dominated professions, and we continue to undervalue and underpay vital jobs that are predominantly done by women, like social care and childcare.
We've got to break down the barriers that keep women out of work after having their families - it is still too hard for many to get back into decently-paid jobs after having children, and gender roles when it comes to childcare are deeply entrenched.
What should the government do?
From next month, large companies will have to publish information about the difference between average male and female earnings in their workplaces. But this feels like the government just paying lip service to this issue, as there will be no enforcement and no punishment for any employers who decide not to bother.
If Theresa May is serious about ending the gender pay gap the government must go much, much further. The TUC is calling on ministers to:
• End discriminatory pay: through regular equal pay audits, sanctions on employers who break the law, and ending employment tribunal fees so women can access justice.
• Tackle job segregation: by getting more women into better paid jobs like engineering and finance.
• Improve pay for "women's work": through valuing important jobs done by predominantly female staff, like nursery nurses or carers, by increasing pay, progression and status.
• Tackle the motherhood pay penalty: by challenging pregnancy discrimination, improving access to flexible work, creating more well-paid, high-skilled part-time jobs and giving dads better opportunities to share parental leave and work flexibly.
My advice to any working woman today would be to join a union. By joining a union, working women can have their voices heard at work, and can work together to win equal pay and fair treatment.
HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today
Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org