#BeBoldForChange: International Women’s Day 2017
8 March 2017
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 March is fighting for a more inclusive, gender-equal world of work.
The World Economic Forum has predicted the gender gap will not be closed until 2186: this is too long to wait. International Women’s Day aims to be an important catalyst for driving greater changes for women and moving closer to gender parity.
The National Union of Journalists and the trade union movement play a hugely important role in promoting equality in the workplace and fighting for fair conditions for all.
Analysis by the Trade Union Congress has revealed that the average woman has to wait nearly a fifth of a year (66 days) before she starts to get paid, compared to the average man. The current gender pay gap for all full-time and part-time male and female employees stands at 18 per cent.
This pay gap means that across the board women effectively work for free for the first 66 days of the year until Tuesday 7 March. Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary said:
“The UK has one of the worst gender pay gaps in Europe. Even in industries where women dominate, such as education, they get paid far less than men. By joining a union, working women can have their voices heard at work, and can work together to win equal pay and fair treatment.”
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report, Journalists in the UK, found that more than half of women in the media earned less than £2,400 a month compared with 35 per cent of men – and they were less likely to be promoted than their male colleagues.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2017 edition of its State of the Profession revealed a pay inequality gap of £5,784, a modest reduction of £220 on last year’s figure.
The NUJ has secured pay increases for many of its women members who discovered they were being discriminated through their pay packets. The union will continue to monitor pay parity, particularly in the light of the requirement, from April this year, for employers with more than 250 employees to publish data on their gender pay gap.
The union also lobbies industry to make women more representative on media company boards which, for the most part, remain largely white and male.
The TUC reported in 2016 that nearly two in three young women had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Of those who identified as black, minority and ethnic origin (BME), more than half (52 per cent) said they had experienced sexual harassment.
The NUJ works with its members and employers to ensure that women feel supported and confident in challenging and reporting unacceptable behaviour. A survey of union members in the creative industries found that eight in 10 women (81 per cent) who reported bullying, harassment and discrimination at work said their gender was a factor. The Federation of Entertainment Unions has produced advice for reps in dealing with harassment and code of conduct for the creative industry as part of it Creating without Conflict campaign.
On-line abuse has become a growing threat for many women. Recently MP Diane Abbot spoke out about the level of sexist and racist abuse she experienced daily, including death threats. Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned for Jane Austen to appear on UK banknotes, found herself the centre of a vicious Twitter storm.
Women journalists are frequent targets of abuse on social media. An NUJ survey in Scotland showed cyberbullying affected the way half of respondents worked. The NUJ has welcomed the Crown Prosecution Service guidance on reporting and preventing social media abuse and the introduction of a confidential reporting point for female journalists from the European Centre for Press and Media Freedoms.
The NUJ continues to encourage and advise employers on its diversity and inclusion policies. Minority ethnic women face discrimination at every stage of the recruitment process, according to an All Party Parliamentary Group. In 2011 the overall unemployment rate for ethnic minority women was 14.3 per cent, compared with 6.8 per cent for white women. Among Pakistani and Bangladeshi women it rose to 20.5 per cent.
In recent years, however, the NUJ has seen a marked improvement in the efforts of employers to co-operate with unions in seeking ways to encourage a diverse workforce.
Inclusion requires flexibility in the workplace, which is an essential mechanism for women with disabilities or those with child-care responsibilities said The Shaw Trust (2016). The unwillingness of some employers to be flexible can prevent these women moving into full-time employment – and that is why a large number of journalists now choose to work as freelance.
The union also supports the campaign group, Women Against Statement Pension Inequality (WASPI), which argues that women born in the 1950s have been unfairly prejudiced by the state pension age changes. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that half of women with no workplace pension earn less than £300 a week, compared to only a quarter of men. The NUJ continues to campaign for a decent state pension for all generations.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to reflect on the problems women, including women journalists, face at work because of discrimination, bullying, recruitment habits and insufficient checks on employment practices. It also a time to celebrate the achievements of women who have fought for fairness and remain as role models for us all in the workplace.
“Women are expected to bear the brunt of childcare and family duties. That is why employers should be more flexible in agreeing hours and terms that allow them to juggle a career and family. Why would any employers want to lose experienced and talented staff, when all it takes is being a little more accommodating?
“Unions play an important role in the struggle for fairer workplaces. It is a scandal that women are still paid less for doing the same job as male colleagues and find themselves passed over for promotion. The NUJ is fighting for proper monitoring of gender representation in the industry and has called on Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, to publish data and set targets on gender parity.
“Today is also the day to reflect on the lives of women around the globe facing similar – and even worse – problems in the world of work. We must all act in solidarity and Be Bold for Change.”
Find out more about International Women's Day, plus events and campaign materials to help you hold your own #BeBoldForChange event on the IWD website
The NUJ has a range of guidance publications for women members and reps dealing with sexual harassment.