by Gabriella Craft: email@example.com
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women everywhere. Taking place on the 8th March each year, IWD calls together organisations, communities and individuals from all over the world to work as a collective body pushing for gender equality.
The last 100 years have brought huge advances for women and their place in British society. This year, we mark 100 years since some British women were the first in the UK to be awarded the vote and were able to stand as MPs. In 1928, women in Britain finally gained equal voting rights with men. After the widespread attention gained by striking Ford Factory machinists in Dagenham, who fought against their work being classed in a lower pay grade than men doing similarly skilled work, the Equal Pay Act of 1970 was introduced. In addition, we have seen more women break through into positions of power within education establishments, public sector institutions and the political arena, as well as receive prestigious accolades in the worlds of sport, music and film.
In the last year, the discussion on gender equality has been high on the international agenda. 2017 has seen more and more people able to speak out against inequality and exclusion and has seen the outstanding bravery of those women who chose to speak out and declare #metoo in a high-profile expose of sexual harassment in Hollywood and the workplace more generally (The Guardian, 2017).
However, there is still much work to be done. Sexual harassment in the workplace remains a major issue in all occupations, with 52% of women experiencing this in their careers (The Fawcett Society, 2017).
A recent study found that more than 500 companies still have a significant pay gap (BBC, 2018); on average women in full-time employment are paid 14.1% less than men (The Fawcett Society, 2017) Indeed, in a case that mirrors the struggles of the Ford Machinists nearly 50 years ago, female employees at Tesco are currently in the process of fighting for equal pay in court.
Sadly, gender inequalities start at a young age. Studies suggest gender stereotypes are formed between 5 and 7 years of age, no doubt a contributing factor to why girls are still less likely to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects at A Level (LSE, 2017) and why women hold just a sixth of senior roles at top UK companies (Financial Times, 2017). In addition, a third of female students at mixed-sex secondary schools have experienced sexual harassment. 64% of students are unsure of school policies and practices aimed at preventing sexism and only 22% of secondary school teachers have received training to promote gender equality and tackle sexism (NEU & UK Feminista, 2017).
Let us turn our attention to those fighting discrimination on more than one front. New research conducted by the Guardian and Operation Black Vote found that only 3.5% of the people at the top of the UK’s leading 1000+ organisations are from BAME backgrounds and of those, less than a quarter are women (The Guardian, 2017). Disabled women are 35% less likely to be in employment than disabled men, non-disabled men and non-disabled women (York University, 2007) and there are currently debates within the UK Labour party and many trade unions about trans women’s identities, and their inclusion on all-women shortlists and at all-women conferences.
Often, at the forefront of those debates and at the decision-making table, are the most privileged voices. Indeed, the conversation in 2018 is not yet completely intersectional – it is important therefore to work harder to ensure that BAME women, trans women, disabled women, women young and older, all women have their voices heard and true inclusivity is created.
Ultimately, it is estimated that at the current rate, it will be 217 years before complete gender equality is achieved worldwide (IWD.com). Fittingly therefore, the IWD campaign theme for 2018 is #pressforprogress. We’ve asked members of the EqualiTeach community – those we worked with, those who support the organisation, friends and family – to tell us exactly what ‘progress’ in the fight for gender equality means to them, and what their personal contribution will be towards closing the gap in 2018.
217 years to gender equality? Not if we can help it.
Rie Manning, Primary School Student
‘I am not a stereotype’
David Landon Cole, Advisory Board Member
Progress for me means getting closer to equal outcomes for men and women.
I’m trying to help get as many women elected for Labour in Huntingdonshire at the council elections this year.
Lucy Goodyear, Advisory Board Member
Progress for me means more countries following Iceland to make it illegal to pay women less than men.
In 2018, I will continue pushing hard in my career to set an example to and encourage other professional women that they can do it too.
Tammy Naidoo, Youth Education Officer (Operations)
For me, progress means girls and young women not being limited by society with regards to what they are allowed to do or how they have to behave.
I pledge to continue to work with young people helping to combat gender myths and challenging people when they put limitations on others because of their gender.
Georgina Manning, Programme Support Officer
Progress to me would be all children and young people being able to express themselves freely and be who they want to be with no expectations or limitations put on them based on their gender. Within education I would like to see more awareness of the ways in which we subtly and unconsciously place gender stereotypes onto young people, and a concerted effort to change this, particularly in early years as this ‘social conditioning’ begins at a very early age.
When delivering art workshops to young people I pledge to ensure that the artists I use as examples are a balanced mix of female and male artists and that this is consistent across all disciplines (painting, sculpture, land art, fashion design etc.)
On a more personal note when buying gifts for children I pledge not to conform to stereotypical ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ toys, sending a message that anyone can play with any toy they like regardless of gender.
Michael Chidgey, Youth Education Officer
With regards to gender equality, ‘progress’ to me means the acceleration of consent culture in UK secondary schools. It means the extinction of the behaviours laid out in UK Feminista’s damning exposé ‘It’s Just Everywhere’. By no longer permitting sexist attitudes to germinate in educational settings, we can strike a crippling blow to gender inequality in the UK.
In 2018, I pledge to angle my work with EqualiTeach towards creating a new resource that can help teachers and school leadership teams devise holistic approaches to tackling sexism and sexual harassment in schools. UK Feminista has made clear that, with regards to gender inequality, UK schools are currently the poisoned wells of our society. By rejecting sexism and promoting consent culture in our educational institutions, we can begin to remedy the broader gender inequality that runs throughout UK society.
Lt. Alice Dixon, Officer Commanding India Troop, Part of 22 (ARRC Main) Signal Squadron
For me, progress would mean that in my chosen career (or in any) people are not surprised to find their superior is a female. It is often the case that when people see ‘Lt Dixon’, they automatically assume I am a man. Progress would also mean people accepting that a female can be just as good as than their male counterpart even if they are in a male centric environment or career.
I pledge to get involved in everything I can at work, especially in lots of sports, to show that females do need to be taken seriously. I am going to make every effort to be a good role model for females in the army, and for the soldiers under my command, so they respect any female they work with, regardless of rank.
Laura Richardson, Youth Education Officer (Strategy)
Progress to me would be that when I am teaching, students do not automatically assume that people in certain careers, for example in the field of maths and science, are men. For this to happen we need to be educating young people on inspirational people of all genders across all career paths, including men who work in sectors traditionally deemed ‘female’.
My pledge for 2018 is to address gender stereotypes within my lessons with young people and engage them in a conversation to discuss how we can all work together and support positive campaigns fighting for gender equality.
Paul Mortimer, Advisory Board Member
Progress means more women and girls feeling empowered to strive for and demand more. I’d like to see a time where all women are judged on their performance and nothing else.
My pledge is to challenge the authorities to improve their awareness of their biases and to embrace diversity and change.
Most importantly to champion the rights of women and girls, highlight the obstacles and challenge all to be better and do better.
Kate Hollinshead, Head of Operations
Progress means all people in positions of power in education settings seeing equal treatment and being included as a right for everyone, not as a burden – something you have provide for people. I would like more open conversations about equality and diversity and more open minds!
I pledge to continue to support employees, volunteers and work experience students to feel confident, empowered and assertive in the workplace and to reduce their experiences of discrimination based on an intersection between age and sex.
Megan Pease, Administrative Assistant
Progress in the fight for gender parity for me would mean more women working in the construction industry, both in office roles and on sites.
My personal pledge is to make more effort to encourage women working in this industry, no matter what their role is, to take part in training and try and gain more technical knowledge so that they have a bigger say in the construction work that goes on.
Jon Dennis, Head Coach and founder of Attleborough Boxing Club; Member of the Performance and Coaching Committee, England Boxing
For me progress would mean that the trend of growing numbers of female members in the sport continues. It would mean that more and more young women and girls will feel like they can achieve anything in sport. I pledge to continue to support female members of the club throughout their participation in boxing and to lead the training of more female coaches
Ben Smith, University of East Anglia Boxing Club President
Progress would mean UEA Boxing Club supporting as many people as possible developing as a boxer, either as a hobby or competitively, and thereby growing as individuals through their participation. Progress in the education setting would also mean continued encouragement for people to try sports and activities that they may not have considered previously.
I pledge to support more female coaches and boxers in the sport by encouraging them to join Amateur Boxing Association England as competitive fighters and coaches.
Francessca Stephens, Youth Education Officer
For me, progress means young women (and young people as a whole) facing fewer barriers held up by stereotypes when it comes to accessing sexual health services.
I pledge to spend my free time using my knowledge and experience of sexual health and equality to visit young people in BAME communities, bring sexual health services and education to them, thus working on removing the stigma attached to sexual health amongst specific communities.
Gabriella Craft, Youth Education Officer (Business Development)
For me, progress means more and more staff in education settings will have a greater awareness of gender inequalities in schools, and will feel confident and supported whilst making concrete steps towards addressing them.
In 2018, I pledge to press local governments to provide added funding for local schools so that staff can access gender equality and sexism training.
Jennifer Johnson, Education, Training and Strategy Officer
For me, it is important that more young women are taught to embrace the wonderful things that their bodies can do.
In 2018 I pledge to work with young women at my local climbing wall to encourage female participation and begin to bridge the unnecessary gap between male and female performance.
“It’s just everywhere” A study on sexism in schools – and how we tackle it, National Education Union & UK Feminista (2017)
Manchester MET University https://www.mmu.ac.uk/equality-and-diversity/doc/gender-equality-timeline.pdf
The Fawcett Society, Sex Equality: State of the Nation 2016