Gender Equality: Are We There Yet?

It was whilst at a flat party that I began a conversation with a friend of a friend. I was told on introduction that he was studying Politics and International Relations. After a while we got on to the subject of whether sexism was still alive and well in our society.

It was then, with pride, that Mr. International Relations announced that he believed that women were equal to men.

After this statement I deliberately kept my face vacant. He smiled widely, waiting for his pat on the back. Others standing around us began nodding their approval, clearly demonstrating their appreciation for such a stand up guy.

It was then that I rolled my eyes and walked away.

Should we really commend people for holding an opinion that is surely quite straightforward?

It seems rather alarming that gender equality is still in question and that people who agree with equality are held as paragons of society. Surely believing men and women are equal is common sense?

During September 2011, journalist John Humphries scrutinised some of the reasons behind the gender pay gap in the UK. His findings questioned whether reaching equality was a pipe dream.
Indeed, Humphries found that 41 years after the Equal Pay Legislation was passed, women in executive positions were earning £10,000 less than their male counterparts[1]. It was found that if the current pace of progress were to continue in pay settlements, it would take 98 years before women would be equal.

Forgive me for my crass use of capital letters BUT THAT’S 2 YEARS OFF OF A CENTURY.

People may be living longer, but I’m not sure I can hold on that long before I can say that women and men are paid equally.

Interestingly for any potential journalists, the Guardian reported that “male journalists wrote 78% of all front-page articles” and “men accounted for 84% of those mentioned or quoted in lead pieces”[2]. This research has aided many women’s rights activists in approaching the Leveson inquiry on the negative presentation of women in the media. For example, Anna van Heeswijk, chief executive of Object, said: “With newspapers so male-dominated, is it any surprise that women are portrayed the way they are? Changing the number of female writers and the ways in which women are portrayed in the media is crucial if we are serious about wanting a socially responsible press.”[3]

It could be argued, however, that positive changes in attitudes have been made.

For four decades Jimmy Savile sexually assaulted young girls and co-workers and their complaints and concerns were quieted, ridiculed or ignored.
Former BBC Radio 1 presenter Liz Kershaw stated “When I complained to somebody they were incredulous and said ‘Don’t you like it? Are you a lesbian?’”[4] She continued to state, “The rumours were there, the jokes were there. It was an open secret… everyone joked about Jimmy Savile and young girls.”

Disgustingly, this was allowed to happen for a very long time. However, it is evident that attitudes have changed as today’s society want answers and demand justice.
Mark Easton, the BBC Home Editor supports this view[5] as he states,
“When considering the lecherous behavior of disc jockeys and other pop celebrities in the past, we need to remember the cultural framework within which it happened.
“That is not to excuse the boorish, thoughtless or vile activities of powerful men who should have known better. But it is a reminder of how far we have come and how recent some of those changes have been.”

Evidently, attitudes are improving. But surely we need to move faster towards resolving gender inequality, not only for women, but men too.

Fathers could expect to gain 12 months of parental leave after the birth of their baby and claim “flexible parental leave” allowance, according to the Telegraph[6]. However, it was disclosed that a Cabinet disagreement has seen the introduction of the joint allowance to be delayed until October 2015, citing the negative impact on hard-pressed businesses.
Clearly, there is a struggle for both men and women to gain a level playing field.

And I certainly hope it won’t take us a century to get there.

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We Are Standing In The Way Of Own Success

Recent research has found that women would rather work for a male boss than a female one. With more high end positions still going to men and a considerable gender pay gap still in existence the inequality is clear to see. The Fawcett society states, “Equal Pay is still an issue. In the UK, women get paid, on average, 15.5% less than men.” There have been many different inquests into why women are still getting paid less than men, but no one is yet to consider that women are preventing other women from getting jobs. Could it be true that in many circumstances female hostility and cattyness is standing in the way of other women moving up the career ladder?

It makes sense when you consider female relationships in the work place. According to careerbright.com more women would rather work for a male boss than a female boss. With much of the main reason being that men are straightforward in business but women find it difficult to extract all emotion from a situation and even women themselves would like to be dealt with without feelings and emotions in the workplace, as with emotion comes the bitchyness and ‘favourites’.

With the recent revelation that many public sector jobs are going to be cut and the majority of losses will be womens jobs as 40% of women work in the public sector compared to 11% of men, sadly it seems women are the first to go in times of hardship. Despite female social mobility (which is obviously better than it was fifty years ago) we seem to be taking one step forward and two steps back. Is it possible that we don’t make ourselves as indispensable as our male counterparts, so in a recession we are cast aside? If women would rather have a male boss and men would rather have a male boss then who is convincing employers to promote women? We really are our own worst enemies.