Why we’re choosing to challenge

This International Women’s Day, it’s all about #ChoosetoChallenge. It feels particularly apt. The world has changed so shockingly since the last IWD that this more provocative stance seems even more necessary for where we are now.

If anything, the pandemic has shown us in shocking technicolour just how many issues and barriers there are for women in the 21st century. It has put a spotlight on the insane amount of work we still have to do in order to reach true gender equality.

Let’s start with some recent stats (or lack thereof).

Since 2017, the gender pay gap service has been in place to essentially force businesses to report on how their business is faring in terms of equal pay for men and women. However, the Equality and Human Rights Commission suspended this last March, and is threatening to do the same this year as ‘businesses face unprecedented uncertainty and pressure’[1] due to Covid-19.

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the CMI, has said that “the excuse is likely to be that businesses are badly hit right now, but actually, it is employees, especially women and minorities, who have been badly hit.”[2] In fact, there are half a million more women in England than men, and yet this seems to be an issue we can just ‘move on’ to next year’.[3]

So what about our own sector?

The Government recently released those (hastily repealed) social media adverts which urged everyone to ‘Stay at Home. Save lives’, yet which depicted women raising the children and completing the housework. Meanwhile the only man in the advert helped by….relaxing on a settee. Really? The government claimed that the ad did ‘not reflect its view on women’, yet someone (several someone’s) saw the ad and thought, ‘you know what? That’s perfectly fine, get it out’[4].

This is the crux of the problem. Perpetuating stereotypes in ads, ads that millions of people will see, perpetuates the message that ‘this is what women do, and we’re all ok with that’. What about those little girls and boys who will see it and assume that’s what life will be like when they’re older. In reality none of us are ok with it, we all want more, and deserve more and that’s why #ChoosetoChallenge is so bang on right now.

It’s not all doom and gloom though.

The best thing that has happened in the past year is Scotland becoming the first country in the world to make period products free for all.[5] It’s a little glimmer of light in an otherwise gloomy outlook. The UK also rolled out free period products in both primary and secondary schools, with Tesco getting in on the action by reducing the price of period products by 5% – the equivalent of the VAT on these items.[6] Hopefully, Scotland’s actions will open the door for other countries to follow suit. Just imagine how many women (and other menstruating people) are benefiting from this and how many more could if governments just get their act together?

 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/09/uk-ministers-face-pressure-over-gender-pay-gap-reporting-delay

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/09/uk-ministers-face-pressure-over-gender-pay-gap-reporting-delay

[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/281240/population-of-the-united-kingdom-uk-by-gender/

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-55844367

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-51629880

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-51629880