As of today, Thursday November 14th, women in the UK effectively work for free thanks to the gender pay gap. The day highlights the point in the year when women, because of the disparity between their pay of men’s, effectively start working for free.
Imagine being paid a lower salary than someone doing the same job as you, just because you are a woman, and they are a man. I don’t need to imagine it; I have experienced it my whole life.
I remember at one point being so shocked about the gender pay gap. My junior male colleague was being paid $10,000 more than me. I sat there shocked when I was told. I was outraged. I had worked for longer than he had, had more experience, had been training this person for the past six months. I delegated the workload to him, and yet I was paid $10,000 less than he was.
I felt under-appreciated, over worked, over tired, and mainly I felt disgust. A company I loved, with a position that I loved doing, dedicating all my time and a lot of my free time to a role, was a company that did not value me enough to even pay me the equal amount as my male junior colleague. I asked for a raise and was told that it was not in the budget, that I could only receive a small raise as they simply could not afford it.
It seems unfeasible that in 2019 this situation still exists. And yet, it would only take a quick glance at recent headlines about presenter Samira Ahmed suing the BBC for paying her a sixth of what the organisation pays male presenter Jeremy Vine, to reveal this nuanced and complex issue is still a very real problem.
Australian women’s soccer team the Matilda's recently won a landmark battle, that saw them sign a new deal guaranteeing a tiered payment system in line with their male counterparts the Socceroo’s.
In the US the women’s soccer team was recently refused equal pay by US soccer, granting them a class action suit.
New legislation introduced last April, sees the UK government bringing in legislation that forced companies with over 250 employees to report gender pay gaps within their businesses. The findings from 2019 were brutal; eight in 10 UK firms were found to pay men more, on average, than women. The most recent figures from the office of National Statistics show that the average mean gender pay gap for full-time workers in the UK is 13.1%.
While the pay gap legislation was a welcome move, campaigners are calling for another change to the law, with the Fawcett Society launching their ‘right to know’ campaign. The campaign wants to make it legal for women to know what a male colleague is earning if they suspect there is a pay discrimination, and 79% of people polled by the group (including 74% men) said they were in favour of the change.
If you are a woman, and you are frustrated, you have every right to be. I am frustrated along with you. Experts predict that the gender pay gap won’t close until 2073. For some racial groups that date is much later. Black women won’t see equal pay until 2124, Latina women until 2248.
To these women, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, that it has to be a constant uphill battle fighting for your rights. Fighting for you to have the same opportunities as everyone else.
If you think that women have the same rights as men in today’s society and we no longer need to be fighting for recognition you are wrong. One woman interviewed on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour programme was in the same position as me. She discovered her male junior was being paid £6,000 more than she was. Once the initial shock had subsided, and her comparator’s higher £22,000 salary was confirmed by their manager, she gave her employer a chance to resolve the issue internally. But they didn’t and instead she began an official grievance procedure which was to last nearly three years and would see her lose her job in the process.
She took her case to a tribunal and, although she won her case, it cost more than the pay-out she received – and she hasn’t had employment since.
Women are still having to fight for a seat at the table, for equal pay, for the ability to walk down the street and not be harassed.
When we feel the joy of a new-born girl, do we look at them and think, “I’m sorry, you will have an entire life of fighting to have equal pay, equal rights and opportunities, based on your gender or race alone.”
It is 2019, it is time that governments and organisations do more to work to close this gender pay gap seen not just in sports and Hollywood, but in every sphere and worldwide.