Gender equality in Britain ‘decades away’


by Sunny
24th July, 2007 at 5:53 pm    

As the Equal Opportunities Commission wraps up for good and passes on its mantle of gender equality to the new Commission on Equalities and Human Rights, which comes into being in October this year, it has issued a damning report today saying that gender equality in Britain is still “decades away”.

I think this is also worth taking into stock at a time when many male bloggers spend an inordinate amount of time criticising Arab countries for their record on women’s rights (also a laudable aim) but say nothing about the inequalities at home.

The Guardian reports:

· A “power gap” in parliament, where only 20% of MPs are women. At the current rate, it will take 195 years for this to close and 65 years to achieve a gender balance in the boardrooms of the top companies listed in the FTSE 100 index;

· A “pensions gap” that leaves retired women with 40% less income than male contemporaries; this gap could take 45 years to close;

· A “part-time pay gap” will take 25 years to close and the “full-time pay gap” 20 years, in a system that now pays women 38% less per hour than men for working part time and 17% for full-timers;

· A “health gap,” disadvantaging men that may never close unless the NHS adopts more male-friendly practices to address the problem that men aged 16-44 are less than half as likely as women to consult their GP, resulting in later diagnosis of serious illnesses.

It found discrimination is still rife in politics, employment and public services, and stark gender gaps at work and at home.

Jenny Watson, the commission’s chairwoman, said: “Today, most women work, many men no longer define themselves as breadwinners and both sexes often struggle to find the time they need to care for others in their lives. Despite many advances, Britain’s institutions have not caught up with these changes.

“A country that channels women into low-paid work, fails to adequately support families and forces people who want to work flexibly to trade down in jobs pays a high price in terms of child poverty, family breakdown and low productivity. This is a challenge that Gordon Brown’s new government urgently needs to address.”

Well Harriet Harman, the challenge has been set for you. It’s time to get the Labour party to get moving.


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  1. Britain » Blog Archive » Battle of Britain, 2007

    [...] … on its mantle of gender equality to the new Commission on Equalities and Human Rights, which comes into being in October this year, it has issued a damning report today saying that gender equality in Britain is still “decades away”. … …more [...]




  1. Avi Cohen — on 24th July, 2007 at 11:40 pm  

    There is no such thing as gender equality in some situations. In others there can be. The trick is to recognise the situations where there can be.

    A man cannot have children so therefore women’s rights in this area need to be beefed up.

    Equally in terms of representation then women can and should play a more active role. However before confronting women’s participation it need to be determined why they don’t go into certain areas.

    Education is also a key.

    The Arab world is singled out by a press that is increasingly not looking to understand the reality of what is going on.

  2. Tim Worstall — on 25th July, 2007 at 10:05 am  

    I do wish people would actually read reports properly, not just the talking points.

    “now pays women 38% less per hour than men for working part time and 17% for full-timers;”

    This is not true. The true statement is that women who work part time get 38% less per hour than men “who work full time”. Men who work part time also get less per hour than men who work full time. But the EOC does not compare those numbers because it does not suit their political purpose to do so (and, yes, I have phoned them up and asked them about it. They wibbled.)

    “A “pensions gap” that leaves retired women with 40% less income than male contemporaries; this gap could take 45 years to close;”

    They also say that this is not as a result of inequities in the 70s before equal pay legislation was passed (in the same para of the report). Whioch is of course insane. Those who are on pensions now are by definition retired: and again by definition those who were indeed working in the 70s, given that the average working lifetime is some 45 years.

    The report is mendacious drivel.

  3. sonia — on 25th July, 2007 at 10:48 am  

    i shall read the report. a focus on inequalities anywhere is certainly worthwhile, absolutely. There are enough of us to cover all sorts of inequalities everywhere. Let me just say the situation for women in the Middle East is absolutely not something you can compare to the situation here, so let’s not set up such ‘comparisons’ hmm? There is a major differences in the kind of inequalities as well – one of the crucial ones in this day and age being that women in many Middle Eastern countries ( and others like Bangladesh) haven’t even got the right to pass on nationality – that is a MAJOR structural inequality that is actually part of the countries’ legislation.

    And I would like to ask – seeing how we’re all talking about gender equality – if people could please read this post on this major inequality of women and citizenship – there is a petition which would be really worth signing. (The diary pages don’t get anywhere near as much reading as the main PP site and I think that is a issue worth highlighting) All this time we spend writing comments to each other – it would be contributing to some real action by signing that campaign and spreading the word. When real injustices like that are going on – laws consigning women to inferior status, I feel we cannot ignore them, we need to address gender inequality globally.

    Anyone interested in signing? thanks very much!

  4. sonia — on 25th July, 2007 at 11:09 am  

    the main thing i would say (before reading the report in detail) is the question of well what are we going to do about it? and why is there gender inequality? it isn’t the same as it was many years ago – or in other countries, where there is a separate rule for a man, and a separate rule for a woman. Also the other question is about individual women, and the lot of women collectively. Reports like this capture the picture of how the lot of women collectively is compareed to the lot of men collectively. ( We should remember that)

    the thing with pay is not simple as ‘oh if you’re a woman the post will pay less’ – these days, posts are advertised for a certain amount, and whoever gets it, gets that pay. now we can say, ok whoever negotiates a bit more, gets that, there has been talk about this being about some men are better at negotiating more money than women, or that in some cases, if a woman is negotiating, she may seem more aggressive and unreasonable than a man. So that’s about attitudes to gender and not something passing a law is going to affect – by that what i mean is that this situation highlights what is ‘left’ after you’ve set up all your Commissions, and Equal Opps legislation, and having procurement guidelines that indicate gender ownership of companies and so on and so forth. That’s been pretty much done – as far as i can see – with pay – its the ‘social attitudes’ we’re dealing with. So – question – what to do about this? Can’t be solved with tickboxes. Avi pointed out something valid which is finding out what women think of themselves, what their capabilities are and so on. It’s like asking, why – when no women are banned from engineering classes, do we find so few women in those classes? It’s tied up very much with what parents teach their daughters, – and asian parents in this case, if they are still bringing up their daughters to think they should be married off at 16, or do a bit of part-time work, till they marry the fella working at the family restaurant ( who probably on the stats shows up as unemployed in the first place). ( and p.s. temp work is prettily crappily paid – male or female).

    and detailed case-studies are useful to get this qualitative understanding. the background of the woman in question matters a hell of a lot – it complicates this ‘all women are oppressed’ approach – which I don’t think we can say here. Some women are in powerful positions – probably because of their background. Some women clearly aren’t able to take advantage of that. for example, if we are comparing the starting salaries of male and female students from a place like LSE – who go into consultancies or investment banks, we will not find much difference.

  5. sonia — on 25th July, 2007 at 11:26 am  

    also of course – it is working out why some professions are paid so woefully – like NURSES!- and why it is still we have mostly female nurses ( though this of course is changing)

    and the fact that in the THIRD sector – where generally everyone being paid less than if they were working for the private sector – there are again – many women working – charities have loads of women about. Everyone knows you get paid shit working for a charity – perhaps i should claim as a brown female i am entitled to more money – and wave this report in my employers face.

    and again – we have to be careful we’re not just looking at the inequalities from a gender perspective. a young man not being able to access opportunities is just as problematic, as a young woman not being able to access opportunities. so again – whilst looking at the collective experience is worthwhile, it would be not much good not focusing in on the individual, as well

  6. sonia — on 25th July, 2007 at 11:26 am  

    p.s. i think tim makes a good point, people need to realise what is being compared with what.

  7. sonia — on 25th July, 2007 at 11:32 am  

    for example: in this country, not being a citizen or anything, (and now i get paid crap seeing as i work for a charity) but back in the day when i still only had one degree to my name, and i worked for an internet strategy firm, ( and i was making more money then! how sad..) and even with being brown and female i probably still made more money than some bloke who grew up on a council estate, no degree and who worked in a shop or something. (And i probably had access to more jobs, as I certainly did apres LSE, however i chose to not go and work in an investment bank, but i daresay it was easier for me, than mr. bloke from council estate with no university degree. And why is that – again – we’d have to ask.

  8. sonia — on 25th July, 2007 at 11:35 am  

    but with respect to the political system – yeah i think its a load of crap and thats why fewer women are interested in being politicians – you have to be a workaholic and social attitudes are still geared more towards supporting the male half of the relationship. So attitudes like that would need to change – and probably the political system as well – before you see more women MPs.

  9. Leon — on 25th July, 2007 at 11:40 am  

    The true statement is that women who work part time get 38% less per hour than men “who work full time”. Men who work part time also get less per hour than men who work full time.

    Clever statement that you use %s in one part but not in the other. What’s the % amount men who work part time get compared to women who work part time?

  10. ernest scum — on 25th July, 2007 at 9:01 pm  

    [troll] Thanks Sonia for your post-Wow!-I’ve been plagued with insomnia for years. But, after just one read through of your fascinating observations, I fell into such a deep sleep that my wife thought I had died and attempted CPR on me. Please can you post some more of your thoughthless reflections on whatever banal events grab you attention, as I need to catch up on many years of lost snoozes. I am typing this with a cracked rib, as my wife is a fairly heavy set woman who went a little strong on the heart massage.

  11. Katy — on 25th July, 2007 at 10:14 pm  

    Ernest Scum, you have lost your vowels because you are a tosser and a troll.

    Fuck off and don’t come back until you’ve got something to say that isn’t mindless, pointless, nit-witted abuse.

  12. Don — on 25th July, 2007 at 10:39 pm  

    ‘ fll nt sch dp slp tht my wf thght hd dd nd ttmptd CPR n m.’

    What? Even trying diferent vowels didn’t make sense of that. It’s like bloody seduko.
    I mean, what he hell is ‘sch’ with vowels but no consonants?

  13. Don — on 25th July, 2007 at 10:45 pm  

    Oh, such. D’uh.

  14. Katy — on 25th July, 2007 at 10:52 pm  

    Honestly, Don, it isn’t worth the effort.

    Goodbye, vowels! Goodbye!

  15. Tim Worstall — on 26th July, 2007 at 9:29 am  

    Leon: The figures are here:
    http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/index.php/blog/individual/equal_pay_for_equal_fudge/

    For those who insist that the existence of a pay gap indicates discrimination, this might interest as well:
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2007/07/reporting_the_gender_pay_gap.cfm

    Why are private sector workers so discriminated against? Or, if you prefer, public sector so favoured?

  16. Old Pickler — on 29th July, 2007 at 9:37 pm  

    Very good points from Sonia.

    And of course, in criticising other countries, we shouldn’t lose sight of our own shortcomings. But equally, by comparison with other countries and with our own past, we shouldn’t forget how far we’ve come.

    Our stats on domestic violence and rape may compare unfavourably with those of Saudi Arabia. This could be because we’re worse. But it isn’t. It’s because in Saudi Arabia, within marriage, violence against women and rape are considered acceptable.

  17. Katherine — on 31st July, 2007 at 12:36 pm  

    Alas, Tim, when commenting on payment of part time workers, is missing a huge point on the figures on part time workers – that of indirect discrimination, a concept recognised by the law and courts of this land for decades.

    It is not relevant that male part time workers also earn less than female part time workers whilst the vast majority of part time workers are female. The principle of indirect discrimination is that when one gender is disproportionately negatively effected by an employment practise, then that is indirectly disriminating against that gender.

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