Why we still need International Women's Day in 2020
This Sunday marks International Women’s Day (IWD), the day set aside to celebrate the achievements of women, while at the same time drawing attention to the inequalities that are still exist between genders.
The overall theme of this year’s IWD is #EachforEqual, based around the idea that an equal world is an enabled world.
And we’ve certainly been making strides to tackle gender disparities and power female advancement recently.
Since women were granted the vote in Britain in 1918, few would doubt how far women have come.
From tackling sexual abuse via the #metoo and #timesup movements, to trying to reduce period poverty and celebrating the power of activism when the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the eighth amendment, there are many things deserving of the clapping hands emoji.
But, if things are seemingly so great for women these days, as some would claim, why do we even need an International Women’s Day in 2020?
It’s important to note that as well as celebrating the accomplishments of women, the internationally recognised day also marks a collective call to action for accelerating gender parity.
Because as well as celebrating women wins IWD also presents an opportunity to reflect on just how far we are from achieving true gender equality.
So here’s 8 reasons we still need International Women’s Day.
The #MeToo message won out but there’s more to be done
The spread of the #MeToo movement took the world by storm in 2017 following allegations of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexually assaulting women. But that was just the beginning.
In 2018 and 2019, the #MeToo movement continued to build with thousands more women stepping forward to share stories of sexual harassment and abuse.
And last month the disgraced producer was found guilty on two counts at his trial - both criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree, marking the end of a pivotal case in the Me Too era.
But there’s still more to be done.
Read more: Men can offer vital support against workplace sexism, study reveals
The annual Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) report from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) shows there were just 1,925 convictions of rape or an alternative lesser offence during the financial year 2018-19, down from 2,635 in the previous 12 months – a drop of 26.9%.
This is despite the number of rape claims dealt with annually by police in England and Wales rising from 35,847 to 57,882 during the last four years.
This means just 3.3% of all reported rapes end in a conviction.
Andrea Simon, head of public affairs at the End Violence Against Women Coalition said: “These numbers represent real women subjected to rape, a crime which does enormous harm, who are then further victimised by a system that does not take them seriously.”
Women are still earning less than men
Fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act 1970, women are still fighting to make equal pay a reality.
According to recent figures from the Office of National Statistics the gender pay gap among all employees currently stands at 17.3% down a tiny amount from 17.8% in 2018.
Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) releases its highly-anticipated Global Gender Report, which takes an in-depth look at how businesses and governments are doing in making the world more balanced for men and women.
And this year’s report made for depressing reading with the prediction that the global gender pay gap will take more than a lifetime to close - clocking in at 99.5 years.
“50 years on from the Equal Pay Act the law designed to address pay discrimination is still poorly understood and too often ignored,” Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive said in a statement.
“Not only are many women still paid less than men for the same job, 4 in 10 don’t even realise they have a right to equal pay for work of equal value.
“The culture of secrecy that discourages women from talking about salaries has allowed pay discrimination to persist. Women do not have the information they need to challenge this injustice.”
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The Fawcett Society are trying to change things with their new Equal Pay Bill, which aims to modernise the law on equal pay.
“Our new Equal Pay Bill would give women who are not being paid equally a route to get the information they need,” Smethers explains.
“Our research shows that 8 in 10 men and women support women being able to find out if they are paid less than a man for equal work. It’s time we gave all women the Right to Know.”
#PayMeToo is a cross-party group of MPs encouraging women to share their stories of pay discrimination in order to tackle the gender pay gap in Britain.
We’re still paying more for the same products
There’s the pink tax to consider too, with researchers revealing the ‘gender price gap’ also applies to everything from dry cleaning to children’s clothes.
Earlier this year a Canadian company, Taxi, launched a “This smells like my penis” candle along with a note to draw attention to the gender pay gap and the fact that women also pay more for the same products as their male counterparts.
The company used the popularity of Goop’s recent “This smells like my vagina” candle to bring home its own important message.
Instead of charging £57 (like Gwyneth’s one) it’s charging £76 to highlight that “even though it's illegal in Canada to pay women less than men, the gender pay gap smells as strong as ever”.
And paying for our periods
What’s more women are still being discriminated against because of their bodily functions.
Despite period products being a necessity that women have to fork out for every single month with recent research revealing that the average woman will stump up £5,000 on period products in her lifetime.
It’s no surprise therefore that in a recent survey of 2,000 women (aged 18-55), half reported having experienced period poverty with 60% of respondents admitting to budgeting in order to afford sanitary items and 79% claiming to have made sacrifices or gone with less in order to afford their monthly necessities.
A permanent resolution to period poverty might be some way off, but things are starting to change.
Following on from the news that free sanitary protection will now be provided to all patients in NHS hospitals, the Government has pledged to end period poverty around the world by 2030.
The pledge will see millions go to projects providing sanitary protection, like the efforts made by Scotland who now offer free sanitary protection to women and girls living in period poverty.
Women are still suffering domestic abuse
According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) an estimated 7.9% (1.3 million) of women experienced some form of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2018, and an estimated 28.9% (4.8 million) of women aged 16 to 59 years have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16 years.
But for various reasons women still aren’t feeling able to report it.
According to CSEW data for the year ending March 2018, only 18% of women who had experienced partner abuse in the last 12 months reported the abuse to the police.
Research by Women’s Aid found that, on average, women stay in abusive relationships for more than 6 years before reaching out for support.
To help the charity have launched a new live chat service to support female survivors of domestic abuse, which will enable them to chat directly with a Women’s Aid support worker.
Read more: Japanese women banned from wearing glasses at work
Women are still under-represented in Parliament
Parliament should offer true representation between the sexes, but as it stands there are twice as many male MPs as there are female MPs.
At the last election only 12 extra women MPs were elected. If things keep going in this way it will take 50 years to achieve gender equality in Parliament.
50:50 Parliament is a national campaign encouraging, inspiring and supporting political engagement for women.
In 2016, the group launched the #AskHertoStand campaign, which they plan to continue until gender balance is achieved at Westminster.
Read more: Company becomes first in the UK to offer women flexible working during periods
Breastfeeding at work is still a problem
In recent years strides have been made to try and de-stigmatise breastfeeding in public, but there’s still a long way to go for women to feel comfortable breastfeeding at work.
In the UK, 57% of mums say that they would be happy to breastfeed at work, but just 3% said they were provided with the resources they needed.
Further survey results by Slater and Gordon revealed that one in three breastfeeding mums have been forced to use the toilet at work to express milk, while more than half have had to pump in an unsuitable place — including the staff room, their car, or at their desk.
As a result, nearly a third of the 2,000 respondents said they have experienced problems while trying to express, including issues with their supply, infections, and anxiety.
But there’s another issue at play here too because while it’s important for both the health of mothers and their babies to ensure women are able to breastfeed at work, tackling this issue also makes it more likely for new mothers to return and stay in work.
Research published this year by Pregnant@Work found some breastfeeding women have been fired or forced to resign after highlighting the problems they’ve faced in the workplace.
The report Exposed: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers also found two-thirds of breastfeeding discrimination legal cases from the last decade ended in job loss.
Earlier this year, there was something of a breakthrough, when, in January, House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle finally overturned a 20-year-old ban on breastfeeding in the chamber, saying: “If it happens, it happens. I won’t be upset by it.”
But if it’s still controversial in the heart of government, how can we hope for it to be normalised in other workplaces across the country?
Being a woman is still hard
And this was no better reflected than in the powerful video highlighting the realities of being a woman, which went viral earlier this year.
The short film, produced for Girls. Girls. Girls. Magazine, featured Cynthia Nixon reciting a blog post written by Camille Rainville entitled ‘Be A Lady, They Said’.
It addresses the onslaught of conflicting messages women receive every day, covering the way women dress, speak and conduct themselves and gives a valuable insight into the ongoing difficulties women face.