Gender Equality: Myth or Reality?

Take a look at this impromptu list of achievements on gender equality:

1870 – Married Women’s Property Act allows women to keep their property.

1918 – Canadian and British women gain the right to vote.

1956 – Golda Meir, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is the first and only women in the Israeli Cabinet.

1966 – Indira Gandhi becomes India’s first female Prime Minister.

1971 – women in Switzerland gain the right to vote.

1973 – the famous “battle-of-the-sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

1974 – contraception becomes legal for single women in the UK.

1990 – Mary Robinson becomes the first female President of Ireland.

2000 – The Millennium Development Goals promote gender equality.

2018 – Women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work.

The last one seems a bit out of place, doesn’t it?

Since January 1st, companies and government agencies in Iceland struggle to obtain government certification of their equal pay policies. Meanwhile, women in China-based BBC branch struggle to be paid the same amount as men for doing the same jobs.

With a furious 1400-words open letter on her blog, Carrie Gracie resigned her post as China Editor last week. In July, BBC was forced to disclose the list of 96 BBC employees who earn more than £150,000, and only a third of them were women. Ms Gracie claimed she has had enough of the corporation “secretive and illegal” culture of unequal salaries. She accused BBC of adopting a “bunker mentality” while attempting to address the problem of the gender pay gap. In her letter, she states that male international editors earn “at least 50 percent more” than the female ones.

Another example – how many women there are among the top 10 BBC’s highest paid presenters?

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Her claims are fully supported by the BBC Women – a group of 150 producers and broadcasters: “It is hugely regrettable that an outstanding journalist like Carrie Gracie feels she has no option but to resign from her post because the BBC has not valued her equally. Up to 200 women that we know of in various grades and roles have made pay complaints.”

The journalist’s resignation caused a huge uproar worldwide, #IStandWithCarrie became a top trending hashtag in just a few days. However, not everyone was swayed by her complaints. Lord George Foulkes, a member of the House of Lords, argued in an interview with Ms Gracie that she was “paid nearly twice as much as a member of Parliament to come on and talk nonsense on the television”.

Ms Gracie explained that she was seeking parity rather than a pay rise. Before leaving her position in China to return to the BBC newsroom, Ms Gracie refused a £45,000 pay rise on her £135,000 salary.

We are told that we are living in the age civil liberties and equality gain ground every day. And yet, we are well familiar with the terms such as “glass ceiling” and “double standards” in the workplace. Women earn less than men, and in some countries, don’t have the same human rights as men. But good news, they live longer! Maybe even long enough to see gender equality become matter-of-course reality? Or is burning bras and throwing flour bombs the only way to be heard?

Natalia Ilina
Natalia Ilina

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