On average, through virtue of having ‘female parts’ (to borrow from Agatha the character in our Equal Pay Day film) we earn 14.1% less than men who do exactly the same jobs. Over a lifetime this adds up: to lower pensions, limited opportunities and makes it more likely that we will face poverty. Yay!!! Happy Equal Pay Day!!!!
I confess, I was late to the Gender Gap party. Even working in broadcast media, under an intense spotlight after the publication of some presenter salaries in the summer, I stuck my head in the sand. You see as a freelancer, surfing short-term and no-term contracts, I was already insecure and bitter. What was the point, I wondered of going all Made-In-Dagenham and mobilizing the sisters when I had no longterm security anyway?
Then I had a word with myself.
I remembered my mum telling me how she fought for Equal Pay in 1971 in her manufacturing job (she didn’t get it then, and we haven’t got it now!). I thought how profoundly sad it is to pass this injustice on to generation after generation. I listened to economists explain how undermining women actually undermines the whole economy. I researched why in the EU attempts to close the pay gap have stagnated. Over the last three years there’s been no improvement. Reports conclude that is due to primarily to traditional barriers and attitudinal responses. In short there’s no systemic reason for this, just prejudice and dumb-ass thinking.
Well, over recent weeks women have been doing a lot of (non dumb-ass) thinking. We’ve been wondering how we could have been subjected to sexual assault, humiliation, disadvantage and structural prejudice for so long while engaged in the normal business of earning a living. We’ve also noted how interconnected these abuses are. No, not every workplace, not every time and not every person (that’s a declaimer for any defensive bros out there) but there is at least one constant: this is not a level playing field.
To put this really politely: there is a lack of confidence in the man-centric system right now and a huge appetite to do things differently.
One of the brilliant things about Equal Pay Day is that it is designed not to exist in the future. When we’re paid equally we won’t need to have it. The Fawcett Society, the engine of Equal Pay Day, has excellent strategies for how to drive this dream forward into reality.
As people who make films, three of us (myself, director Katie Greaves and performer Anneka Harry) decided we’d create our own incredibly silly response. This is not because we think the issue is funny – far from it. But when you look at the statistics they are ludicrous: for example, according to the World Economic Forum it will take 217 years for us to close the gender gap at current rates of progress. Since we’re living in a cosmic joke, it makes sense to use it as material. Material that we need you to share to help spread the message.
Even this week I hear people say that although they think Equal Pay is important but there are so many other urgent problems that need sorting first. Well, with regret (sort of) I have to tell them that Womankind has been waiting 47 years (since the Equal Pay Act) so that lame excuse is Out. Of. Time.
WATCH: It's Equal Pay Day with some of UK's biggest broadcast talents (and Agatha)
Go to @fawcettsocitey and take the #PayGapPledge Visit fawcettsociety.org.uk/pledge-equal-pay-day-2017