International Women’s Day And Why It Still Matters

International Women's Day And Why It Still Matters

On the eve of International Women’s Day, it seems clearer than ever that women (who account for 49.556% of the world’s population) need more than one day each year to celebrate their achievements and shout out the systemic issues facing what is after all, almost half the globe.

According to number released by the ONS, in 2018 the UK gender pay gap was at 17.9%, meaning that women earned an average of 82.1p for every £1 earned by a man every hour. Although the number is falling – it was 18.4% in 2017 – more women are working in part-time jobs compared to men. One key reason for this is crippling childcare costs clearly prohibiting many women from full time work after having kids, placing them in an economic downward spiral, as statistically women who have children never meet the earning  potential of their pre-motherhood (or women who choose not to have children) career trajectories. This is despite women now doing better then men at university and in the jobs market in graduate jobs roles. Part-time work has a lower average hourly rate (£9.36) compared to the average hour for a full-time job (£14.31) in the UK.

The good news is that figures from the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) employment trends survey show 93% of businesses are taking action to close the gender pay gap and increase diversity in their workforces, compared with 62% in 2017. Companies increasingly appear to recognise the business case for building a diverse workforce, with 60% saying it helps attract and retain staff, while half said it increased skills in the workforce.

Over in Silicon Valley, Google has faced allegations of underpaying men. However when the data was analysed, it was found that men were being paid less than women for doing similar work. Google then paid out an additional $9.7 million in compensation to 10,677 employees for 2018, with a disproportionate amount of that going to men. A headline story for a company where only last year sexual harassment allegations against company executives, led to worldwide protests by workers. The Labor Department is investigating whether the company systematically underpays women, leading to Google being sued by former employees who claim they were paid less than men with the same qualifications. DoL regional solicitor Janet Herold confirmed the statement, noting that while the agency was still investigating, it has “received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.”
Has the latest survey asked leading questions which result in a conflation of results, resulting in men now being reimbursed on a false premise? Company officials acknowledged that it did not address whether women were hired at a lower pay grade than men with similar qualifications.

At HSBC the mean hourly pay rate for women and men has increased, from 59% in 2017 to 61% in 2018. The difference in median hourly pay also rose, from 29% to 30%. The gap has also widened at Virgin Atlantic, where the gap in median hourly pay has risen from 28.4% to 31%. A Forte Foundation survey highlights the endemic issue of gender pay inequality even at the top, with Women leaders reporting salaries in their last pre-MBA job 3% lower than their male peers’. In their current roles female MBAs earn 28% less. The study notes that gap represents, on average, almost $59,000 (£45,017.88) in annual pay. Minority women executives fare worst of all (and bear in mind there is only 1 BAME woman in , with salaries that are 52%, or about $77,000(58,746.76), less than “non-minority” men’s.

In the UK, just 84 of the 1,048 director positions in the 100 biggest companies on the London Stock Exchange are held by a business leader from an ethnic minority, down from 85 last year. With Conde Nast reporting last year a gender pay gap of 36.9% and Telegraph Media Group reporting 35% and at ITN a bonus gender pay gap revealed of a massive 77.2% we clearly have a massive glass ceiling to smash before board levels in organisations look anything like me or you. The UK has moved up 1 position in a league table measuring gender equality in the workplace in developed countries, yet it still ranks 13th out of 33, with Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand taking the top 3 places in the Women in Work Index by PWC, (one of the Big Four accountancy firms).  With only 6 female CEOs at the helm of FTSE 100s for over 3 years in a row and women being clustered in junior or part time roles, we could be looking at 217 years to close the pay gap. I am not sure about you, but I don’t have that long to wait.

Published: Fashion Roundtable