Ladies, we’ve been liberated from our rubber gloves. Put down your feather dusters because we’ve got Equal Pay Day, MeToo and TimesUp all under our belt in the short space of six months. Not bad after hundreds of years of female oppression.
In 2017, women across the UK celebrated, or commiserated over, Equal Pay Day. The 9th of November signifies the cut-off of female earnings relative to the average male salary, meaning that from this date they may as well not be working because the average full-time female workers earn 14.5% less than their male counterparts.
A shocking figure perhaps, considering that Equal Pay Act of 1970 was put in place to ‘prohibit any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment’ – so why do women still only earn 85.5p for every £1 a man earns? The most concise answer is that changing societal attitude is much more difficult than changing legislative rights.
Granted, some progress has been made. It’s commonly pointed out that the most powerful political figure in the UK, the Prime Minister, is a woman. You can’t do much better than that, right? But even Theresa May is subject to discrimination, will the Daily Mail please stand up? Finding out who won ‘Legs-it’, be it May or Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, is at the heart of national interest – move over Brexit! And what about the women that we fail to represent? Since the 1990s, the gender pay gap between black African women and white British men has made limited progress – narrowing from just 21.4% to 19.6%, with Pakistani and Bangladeshi women experiencing an even larger gap of 26.1%.
Positive discrimination is something that isn’t explicitly condemned in our legislative guidelines because it’s untouchable; positive discrimination is about the deeply engrained preconceptions of women not being as capable as men. These beliefs will not change with the implementation of laws alone. A question that needs to asked is, when existing in a capitalist economic system which upholds patriarchal power, how do we change the minds of those who believe women are much better placed in the realms of domesticity and motherhood?
The developments regarding female equality beg, now, for a period of reflection – a chance to analyse the gender pay gap for its very real economic consequences, and realise that, now more than ever, we must rethink how we view women in the work place, and reassess the value of their labour.