Today is doubly depressing. Not only is it Donald Trump's first full day as US president-elect but, for women in the UK, it's Equal Pay Day. This means that, from 3.34pm on 10 November until the end of the year, women effectively stop being paid because of the enduring gender pay gap. The mean full-time pay gap currently stands at 13.9%. In other words, women earn just over 86p for every £1 that a man makes. This year's Equal Pay Day comes around only one day later than last year, reflecting the glacial pace of progress in reducing the gap. Campaigners estimate that, at the current rate, it will take 60 years to close completely, which we don't think is good enough.
Why does the pay gap endure?There are multiple reasons why women still earn less than men, despite the Equal Pay Act having been introduced 46 years ago. Important factors include discrimination (for being pregnant, for example), the undervaluing of roles predominantly held by women, the dominance of men in the best-paid positions and unequal caring responsibilities, according to a report by women's rights charity, the Fawcett Society. Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said work done by women is consistently undervalued in our society. "As we mark [Equal Pay Day] this year we are focusing on the fundamental question of who and what we value and asking why it is that we don’t value women and the work they do – paid or unpaid" she said. "Equal value goes to the heart of the fight for pay equality, because the reality is that if it is a sector dominated by women the pay will be lower.” Startlingly, women make up 80% of care and leisure workers and only 10% of those working in the better-paid, skilled trades; they also account for over 60% of those earning less than the living wage, the Fawcett Society said. But that's not all; the pay gap also persists among women with degrees. In the UK, the gender pay gap for graduates 10 years after leaving university (taking both full- and part-time work into account) is 23%.
How to take a stand against the gender pay gapThe first and easiest step is to get on social media. Women are being urged to take a photo of themselves doing a job they're proud of – paid or unpaid – to highlight women's contribution to our economy and society, using the hashtag #EqualValue. Or, alternatively, a photo with female colleagues or other important women in their lives.
Ask a man to cover your shift for free. The Fawcett Society has also encouraged men to tweet photos of themselves doing work perceived to be undertaken by women, or to tweet about the important work done by female colleagues. Ask for a pay rise. It used to be thought that women's reluctance to ask for a pay rise was a root cause of the gender pay gap. Recent research has cast doubt on this idea, finding that women are just as likely to ask for a raise – but they're less likely to get one. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't broach the subject with your boss, or at least start thinking about how to do it effectively. Another, slightly more drastic, option is to leave work early. Women in France left work at 4.34pm three days ago for the same reason, as did many Icelandic women a fortnight ago. As with any protest or strike, there's strength in numbers so get a bunch of colleagues involved and leave together (ideally after a reasoned chat with your boss).