Column: #PressforProgress is still needed today
With its roots set in early 20th century women's activism and subsequent take up by the Unite Nations, International Women's Day provides us all with an opportunity to reflect and put the spotlight on women's achievements and take stock of progress towards gender equality.
From this perspective, 2017 has been a pivotal year, the expose of industrial scale sexual abuse and harassment of women in showbusiness because of the Weinstein scandal and the phenomenal and much needed #MeToo campaign. Such was the ferocity of that campaign that on the back of that campaign success, the charity I lead launched the #HearMyVoice campaign that resulted in more than 300 reports of racist discrimination and abuse in mainly the public sector in South and West Yorkshire in only two weeks.
To put the impact of racism and gender discrimination into context, I suggest that people listen very carefully to the 102 capped England Football Player, Eniola Aluko’s testimony, and the price she had to pay for speaking truth to power and against racism – something that both Eniola (right) and I have in common.
Issues such as equal pay for the same job is still a fight and legal struggle for many working-class women and for minorities, particularly hijab wearing women that research shows they face every ‘ism’ that exists in society – 71% less likely to be employed compared to their white counterparts concluded by the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee.
The question is, how far have we come? On the plus side, in South Yorkshire, particularly at Council level, at the top, evidently “Girl Power” is in full effect, we have leaders, a Mayor and CEO’s that are mainly women, we also have a healthy complement of MP’s too, making their mark on the national stage. So, does that mean the vision of the 18th century women’s rights campaigner, Mary Wollstonecraft, of a future where women would be able to pursue almost any career without obstacle and barrier has been realised? The answer to that question is sadly no, that dream, vision is still a pipe dream for many women – and its worse for those women that are from poorer backgrounds and working class. For women and young girls, misogyny, patriarchy, power, privilege and entitlement are too often embedded in family, community and corporate structures manifesting and perpetuating gender-based inequality that prevents women from realising hopes and aspirations; even equal pay, for an equal day’s work compared to men.
The reality is that the Gender Pay Gap in the UK still exists, where women earn up to 14% less than men, In January 2018, Ladbrokes, Easyjet and Virgin Money revealed pay gaps of over 15% in favour of men.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress.
The website argues: “We can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity”.