On the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave women in the UK the right to vote for the first time, many questioned why women’s rights haven’t progressed further over the last century. Women still earn less than men across the board and are the subject of sexual discrimination and widespread industry assault – so is the key to equality ensuring more women are employed at the top?
The Representation of the People Act added 8.5 million women to the electoral roll but only those over 30 who owned property or were graduates were included. The Act also gave the vote to 5.6 million more men after their voting age was lowered to 21, and the property qualification abolished resulting in the general election in December 1918 consulting an electorate three times the size of the one before it.
Yet progress for women has often felt painfully slow. When a 32-year-old, pregnant Harriet Harman was elected in 1982 there were still only 19 female MPs. The 2017 election was the first time more than 200 women were elected, 208 out of 650 seats.
Beyond the UK, there are female leaders dotted across the globe, and ‘dotted’ remains exactly what they are. There are currently only 28 female heads of state out of 146 world nations, most of which have never had a female leader. And while having a woman in charge doesn’t necessarily make a party’s policies more feminist, it sends a hugely important message to the next generation of women.
The issue of equal pay was brought to our attention by the media in October last year when it was revealed that men working for the BBC earn an average of 9.3% more than women. According to Director General Tony Hall this is more favourable than many organisations which average 18%.
What followed was a widespread campaign, promoting the fact that male presenters were willing to take a pay cut to bring them in line with their female colleagues.
In January, the boss of Luton-based airline EasyJet announced he is taking a pay cut to match the salary of his female predecessor. His salary of £740,000 will now be reduced to £706,000. Furthermore, it was recently revealed women’s hourly pay rates are 52% lower than the men at the airline.
In the latest research from The Chartered Management Institute more than four in five (85%) of women report that they have witnessed gender-discriminatory acts at work.
The Blueprint for Balance: time to fix the broken windows report, which surveyed 856 managers, found that the majority of organisations are still struggling to make a meaningful difference to achieving a gender-balanced workplace.
Worryingly, according to CMI’s new report, only 19% of junior and middle managers believe their senior leaders are committed to the target of gender balance in their organisations – this despite a recent study by management consultants McKinsey showing that the most gender-diverse businesses are 21% more likely to financially outperform their peers.
The new CMI research also found that, despite the introduction of new pay transparency reporting regulations in April 2017, only 8% of managers know the size of their organisation’s gender pay gap.
Furthermore, more than two in five surveyed claim that their organisation does not have a gender pay gap, even though the research found the average difference in pay between male and female managers to be 27%.
Yes, female leaders have worked hard to smash many a glass ceiling and indeed fix the broken windows, but there still appears to be a long way to go. Here’s hoping the next 100 years address the balance.