Not to blow my own trumpet, but I’ve posed a good question here. Why should we be talking about women’s employment? More specifically, why should we be concentrating on women’s employment within the UK? There are arguably many other important causes and challenges that women face across the globe. We still live in an age where many women live in poverty, where the sex trafficking of women continues and where domestic violence against women does not appear to be ceasing any time soon. In and amongst all of these breaches of basic human rights, it can seem that women’s employment within a western country should take a back seat.
Contrary to the intuition that our focus should only lie with these more pressing issues, I would argue we should concern ourselves with women’s employment on the 8th March. Firstly, let’s make one thing clear: this does not to take away from the seriousness of the travesties highlighted above that regularly take place across the world, nor is it in an attempt to hold back or slow down the efforts being made against these problems. International Women’s Day (IWD) is an event that aims to bring together women who are supporting a range of causes. So, we can and should support multiple campaigns that aim to help women across the globe. We should be campaigning to better the serious issues I’ve mentioned and we should also be striving to continually improve upon the positive changes already made.
Aside from realising that IWD is a day to celebrate a variety of causes, we must also realise the important role that a job and career takes in a person’s life. In a full-time role, we are usually contracted to work a minimum of 35 hours a week. If we are asleep for 8 hours a night, then we spend 31% of our waking hours at work. If we include the time people spend commuting and the extra hours people often spend at work, the average person’s job takes up well over a third of their life. This is a huge portion of our time! With this statistic in mind, to spend time actively talking about and improving women’s life in the workplace seems to be of tantamount importance.
I can imagine a response to this thought might be something a little like this:
“So we spend a huge portion of our life working, but equality in the workplace has arrived in most countries now. Shouldn’t we be talking about women and men’s role in the office?”
Unfortunately, this is a misinformed answer. We should indeed be talking about both men and women in the workplace with the aim of improving it for all people. However, the workplace and the opportunities available are certainly not yet equal. According to The Economist, the work place is by no means equal and the glass ceiling is yet to be broken. Business in the Community have collated a fact sheet with a variety of facts about women in the workplace; some of the more shocking statistics from this article include facts such as:
- Male graduates can expect to earn 20% more than female graduates
- In the financial sector, women working full-time earn 55% less annual average gross salary than their male colleagues
- Sexual discrimination continued to be the most frequent type of discrimination claim received by tribunals during 2011/2012.
In fact, if you search “women in the workplace” on any search engine you’ll be greeted by a barrage of studies that suggest we are yet to find equality in the workplace. The more you research, the more you realise that inequality in the workplace still exists. Fortunately, there are ways to counter and improve this situation, we’ve witnessed throughout the years how effective petitions, peaceful protests and social media has proved to be for good causes. Ultimately, two of the most fundamental tools one can employ when trying to change something is communication and knowledge. The more we know and the better we communicate, the easier it becomes to get things done.
Off the basis that IWD aims to celebrate a variety of causes that improve women’s lives, then we should feel free to use this day to engage in debate around women’s employment. It continues to be shown that there is still inequality in the workplace, leaving countless women disadvantaged. By continuing to engage, promote and talk about women’s role in the workplace we stand a far better chance of attaining equality.
At City University we have various different events going on for both IWD and women’s employability in general. Students and alumni can join us for our panel “Successful women in the workplace: What does success look like?” on 8th March. This event will help participants learn more and communicate with women striving in the workplace. We hope to see you there!