One hundred years ago this week, the first women in the UK won the right to vote. But as we celebrate this major milestone in the battle for women’s equality in the voting booth, it’s criminal we still have such a long way to go when it comes to pay equality in the workplace.
The BBC row is still rumbling on, with deputy Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson ambushing John Humphrys live on BBC Radio Four’s Today show on Thursday, to ask if he’d apologised to his former colleague Carrie Gracie for mocking her fight for equal pay in off-air comments.
Jo’s barb follows the release of a report last week by PWC which found there was no evidence of gender bias at the BBC - despite its women’s mean hourly rate being 10.7% lower than men’s. The day after, its former China editor Gracie gave blistering evidence at a government select committee which blew the report findings apart.
Gracie told MPs that the corporation was incapable of resolving its gender pay crisis itself and accused her employer of belittling female employees to justify paying them less.
A pretty picture of equality has certainly not been painted – but the continuing furore over the BBC pay row raises important points, and the volume of the conversation around the topics of equal pay and the gender pay gap is only going to get louder as 2018 unfolds.
Just last month, Easyjet, Ladbrokes and Virgin Money were among British firms forced to reveal gender pay gaps of more than 15% in favour of men when it came to hourly pay.
And there will be more revelations before 6 April, the legal deadline for every single UK business employing more than 250 works to publish their figures.
But while transparency is all well and good, it’s not going to instantly result in equal pay or close the gender pay gay in the UK anytime soon.
Each revelation about unequal pay is a revelation too much – how can such inequality in the work place still exist in 21st Century Britain? In my job, I see it on a daily basis with female clients I work with and it always makes me question why it is happening in this day and age. I regularly see women with just as much experience getting paid tens of thousands less than men doing the same job.
The latest research has shown one fifth of women believe that talking about salaries is inappropriate.
So let’s help empower women to speak up and ask for equal pay, get senior jobs and land roles on boards and as executives to address the imbalance of power that is fuelling the problem.
Let’s engender change in how women's equality is perceived in both society and the workplace. The Time’s Up and MeToo movements are only helping fuel the need for this cultural shift.
According to the latest reports, gender parity is actually going backwards, and women around the world will have to wait 217 years for the gender pay gap to close. That’s the year 2235. In the UK, it might have narrowed to its lowest rate in 20 years, but it’s still 9.1%, meaning men are still being paid on average more than £100 a week more than women and we’re still decades away from being paid the same as men.
At the very least, the BBC - which is facing 297 equal pay claims - is going to now have to implement a fairer, more transparent and justifiable pay framework going forward as a result of last week’s reports.
If only this could be rolled out across the whole country. Until that utopia miraculously occurs, we’re all going to have to keep working together to make equal pay a reality way before the predictions. It’s a no-brainer – it makes total sense from an economic perspective, let alone a moral one.
Let’s just hope in the meantime that business bosses across Britain are keeping a beady eye on the BBC’s next moves and taking note about how to tackle the problem of gender pay inequality, just like they would any other business challenge.
As Carrie Gracie has shown, women merit equal pay and are going to speak out and fight until they do.