With the gender pay parity deadline of the end of March, the anniversary of 100 years of women voting, the huge rise of campaigns such as #MeToo #BehindEveryGreatCity #DrawALine #TimesUp #WakingTheFeminists #PressforProgress #YearoftheWoman (yes, there really are that many!); I’m really starting to feel like 2018 could end up being one of those moments in history – the modern day Suffragettes movement – or it could all just fade away as we follow the next campaign, get overlooked by the male equivalent campaigns popping up – or that all these different campaigns mean that it is too diluted and therefore, ineffective. The problem is, campaigns aren’t new.
Look back at 2014 and we had #GeenaonGender #AllInForHer #HeForShe #ItsOnUs and #GirlsCount.
In 2015 we had #EverydaySexism #GrowingUpaGirl #PeriodsAreNotanInsult #ToTheGirls #TheEmptyChair and #ILookLikeAnEngineer.
In 2016 we had #LikeALadyDoc #NoWomanForever #WhyWomenDontReport.
In 2017 we had #MeToo #IWillSpeakUp #WomenBoycottTwitter #WomensMarch and #HowIWillChange
There is one big difference in 2018 however; and that is the power of the influencer. There are some very well-known famous and influential people behind some of the campaigns, so time will tell if this gives them both the longevity, and the impact to create real change.
I’d love to see real changes, but historically women have started a campaign, and then it has fallen away. We’re not as good as other minority or unequal groups at sustaining our cause, or even coming together. Women are diverse, we cross so many different socio-economic, racial, faith and orientation groups – until we find a way to come together for the greater good, we will be all too easy to segregate.
A good example was last year, around March when the gender debate came up again. About a fortnight before International Women’s Day, a small group of women decided to try and arrange ‘A day without women’. However they chose the one day of the year when women get visibility – International Women’s Day. It was also too short notice to actually raise awareness and so it didn’t really take place. Ideally, we would arrange for international women’s day to be as successful as possible, and then hold a day without women the following week on the same day. The impact would be much greater.
Another problem, is that unlike our male counterparts, this campaign failed to take into account that women are much less likely to not go into work for fear of it affecting their career. The campaign was not clear enough in finding ways to work with women. For example, encouraging women to book a day of annual leave would be much easier than suggesting that they call in sick or don’t go in. We are far too conscientious for that!
Iceland has now successful held a day without women for several years. The first strike was in 1975 and was largely a success, however it has required a few more. In 2016 all women left work (and stopped all household activities, including childcare) 2 hours and 22 minutes early, at 2:38pm, and headed to a central square citing the gender pay gap of around 30%. In 2010, they stopped work at 2:25pm. In 2005, 90% of all women in Iceland stopped work at 2:08pm. You can actually track the country’s progress by the time the time they stop work. But with the current trend it could take 50-100 years to reach equal pay; so wouldn’t it make sense if we did this in more countries around the world?
So what do we need to do to make sure women’s equality (including the right to work without sexual harassment and pay equality) actually moves forward, and doesn’t get brushed under the carpet like it did in the 50s (just watch Mad Men and you’ll see that what we thought was now not deemed appropriate behaviour and had stopped, has simply gone underground; until now)? For one we need to come together, under one united campaign. But it can’t just be online, and it needs to be well-organised. At the moment governments and men are relying on the fact that we can’t get ourselves organised enough to see it through; that we are too busy running our households, raising our children, having our career – and that we seem happy to settle for a small improvement rather than actual fundamental change and equality.