I am out of the office from now until January 1st 2018.
No I’m not going on an extended holiday, I’m joining thousands of women across the UK who are putting on their out of office to make a point about the gender pay gap.
For today is Equal Pay Day – the date on which women in the UK effectively start working for free, a full 51 days before the end of the year.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the gap between male and female wages currently stands at 14.1%, with no movement on that difference in the last three years.
What’s more the gender pay gap for women in their 20s has been widening recently and is now five times greater than it was six years ago.
But it is older women who face the greatest discrimination, with the ONS revealing that women in their 50s are paid on average 18.6% less than their male colleagues.
It’s clear that progress on closing this male/female pay disparency is stalling. At the current rate of change, the Fawcett Society anticipates that it will take 100 years to close the gap in pay between the sexes.
Last equal pay day, women were encouraged to down tools early. This year women are fighting back by switching on their Out of Office to mark the day that they effectively stop getting paid.
The campaign is the brainchild of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) and Now and will see staff at companies including Thinkbox and Bumble set their Out of Office template with the subject line “Out of Office. For the rest of the year”.
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said: “The gender pay gap is poorly understood and as a consequence not closing fast enough. We want women everywhere to see the scale of the problem and join us in sorting it out.”
Earlier this week Sophie Walker, wrote a piece for Campaign, which highlighted the fact that next year, companies with more than 250 employees will have to report their gender pay gap.
“It’s a start, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t really go far enough, does it? Only a fraction of UK businesses have more than 250 employees, and women aren’t all ‘average’,” she wrote.
“What does the gender pay gap look like for women with disabilities? Or women of colour? Or working mothers? If we want real change, better reporting of the problem, giving better understanding of what causes it, is a good place to start. But as ever, action is the only thing that really matters.”
And women (and men) are taking to social media to get behind the #outofoffice campaign.
“Have you switched on your #outofoffice yet ladies? Today’s the day that women earn as much as men do in a full year,” one woman wrote.
“Switching on my out of office in solidarity,” a man commented.
The campaign won’t solve the problem overnight, but it well help raise people’s awareness that the gender pay gap still exists and is a step in the right direction in making sure that all women’s work is properly valued.
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