This week was International Men's Day and the Global Institute for Women's Leadership...read more
Women in Iceland, including its Prime Minister, went on strike yesterday over the gender pay gap and gender-based violence. Should we take a leaf out of their book?
Iceland’s female Prime Minister joined a nationwide strike yesterday over the gender pay gap and gender-based violence. Women refused to do any paid or unpaid work on Tuesday. The event is the first full-day women’s strike since 1975, when 90% of Icelandic women went on strike. This is even though Iceland regularly tops world rankings on gender equality. Yet there is still a pay gap of up to 21% in some professions and experiences of gender-based or sexual violence are widespread.
It’s still some considerable stretch ahead of the UK, though, and yet there’s no talk of striking here, except in my house when I get a little bit overwhelmed by to do lists. I’m sure many women have threatened to go on strike at some point, though, given the glacial progress we seem to be making on gender equality. With every step forward comes backlash and periods when even standing still is hard.
Gender based-violence seems to simply morph into other forms – it goes online or underground or becomes normalised through exposure to violent porn so that girls often don’t even feel they have a right to object.
And despite awareness of the gender pay gap and gender pay audits, there is so much that goes on that exacerbates it. For instance, the fact that so few women are in the technology field and that is where many of the better paid jobs are will, if we don’t get more women into the well paid roles or value the kind of roles women tend to do more, work against gender equality. Everything from bonus structures, how we work [for instance, the debates about whether flexible workers should be paid less] and what courses we take to parental leave [where there has been progress for the few], carers leave, the care infrastructure and what kind of work we value needs to be unpicked and addressed.
A report out yesterday from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on on Environmental, social, and corporate governance [ESG] had quite a bit to say about ‘gender washing’ – the process of paying lip service to gender equality, for instance, by bunging a few non-executive women on your board or doing a perfunctory report explaining your gender pay figures without showing any hint that you are interested in addressing any imbalance. It calls for new guidance and basic standards on ‘gender washing’ and for the establishment of a new unit as part of the Gender Pay Gap Service which will publish guidance on how to avoid ‘gender washing’.
Fighting all of this shape shifting is exhausting, but it must be done. Perhaps a strike would bring more attention to it all and show how much of the world women are holding up. At the very least it would give women a well-deserved day off.