The world of gender equity and fairness has received tremendous support, impetus and publicity in the past year. Two global movements #MeToo and #TimesUp created a forum for women, their champions and allies to speak out about misogyny, sexual assault, sexual harassment, bullying and gender inequality in the workplace. Recent rolling global walkouts at tech giant Google to protest preference (including bonuses) received by senior male leaders accused of sexual harassment highlighted that such behaviour, and management cover-ups, were no longer going to be tolerated.
The global movement for Equal Pay has received unprecedented support from this increased awareness of inequities in the workplace for women. At the same time the World Economic Fund estimated last year that it would take 217 years for the gender pay gap and disparities in opportunities between men and women to be closed if no further action were taken by local and global organizations, businesses, corporations and governments.
The Equal Pay, or Gender Pay Gap movement hopes to scale up rapidly linked to the success of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Prominent women speaking up earlier this year in TIME magazine referred to the ‘triple threat’ for women in the workplace: the need for equity in pay, leadership, and opportunity while ensuring environments are safe and equitable for both men and women. CNN estimates in one survey this year that up to 48% of US firms are reviewing pay policies, many as a result of the gathering momentum created by #MeToo .
Here in Europe Equal Pay has been defined as crucial business, cultural and social issue. The powerful Brussels-based European Women’s Lobby has declared the first week of November Equal Pay Day (the moment when, until the end of the year, women will work for free compared to their male counterparts). They draw increasing awareness to the economic need to close the gender pay gap: lower pay (estimated at a €300,000 shortfall in lifetime earnings in the Netherlands by advocacy experts Women, Inc.) results in lower pension savings, and an increase in female poverty.
The #genderpaygap (much higher for women of colour around the globe than for white women) will continue to hold a spotlight on this systemic and pernicious problem, generating outrage and ongoing dialogue, and spearheading the same rapid change to the status quo we have seen with #MeToo and #TimesUp. Closing the gap will be a main business priority for many industries, and actively championing and enacting change will be (as Google found out this week) not a ‘nice to have’ – it will be necessary for business survival.
This article was submitted to The EQUAL-SALARY Foundation by Swiss-based Organizational Behaviour expert and business journalist Mary Farmer.