International Women’s Day is an annual celebration which honours women’s achievements. It is a day for all groups everywhere to support and raise awareness for gender equality. IWD was first held on the 19th of March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland where over one million women and men campaigned to end gender discrimination, particularly around rights for women to work and vote. This year, IWD theme was #ChooseToChallenge where individuals and groups were invited to raise their hand in solidarity of challenging gender inequality and bias.
Taking this year’s theme into consideration, gender inequality in the workplace is an ongoing issue that needs to be challenged. Emerging evidence that has recently hit the media has highlighted the inequality women still face in workplace environments today. Data from HMRC has shown that women are more likely to have been furloughed than men since the beginning of the first lockdown, and while both men and women spent more time working from home during the last 12 months, women have done more unpaid household work and childcare compared to men (1). Moreover, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, mothers are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to have lost their job since the beginning of the first lockdown (3). In addition, evidence has also highlighted that there continues to be a gender wage gap. In April of 2020, the median weekly pay for female full-time employees was £543, compared to £619 full-time male employees (in other words, women earned 7.4% less than men during this time) (2).
Further examples of gender inequality in the workplace are the lack of women in leadership roles, and the length of time required for women to advance in their careers, which in turn contributes to women having lower socio-economic status. For instance, women are more likely than men to be working in minimum wage jobs and are less likely to progress out of this low pay (3). Moreover, women are more likely to run businesses in areas that have been harder hit by the pandemic, such as beauty and retail.
While women’s rights and equality have come a very long way since the early 1900s, and that, of course, should be celebrated, women continue to experience inhospitable workplace environments and hostile job markets. The facts discussed in this article merely scratch the surface of gender bias and discrimination within the workplace.
However, you can choose to challenge this gender inequality by supporting female-led businesses and organisations, such as Breathe Therapies and S.E.E.D Lancashire, which were founded my female social entrepreneur and RMN Shelley Perry. Women-owned businesses already contribute £105 billion to the UK annually (4), but they have the potential to contribute so much more to our economy. By supporting female-led organisations and businesses, you are also supporting the creation of more jobs, economic growth, and a more diverse business community, as well as empowering more women to reach their full potential in women owned and women lead organisations.
To learn more about International Women’s Day click here.
This article was written by Ellie Tkocz who is one of our volunteers here at S.E.E.D!