As of tomorrow, women will officially be working for free for the rest of the year. Not out of choice, but because of the gender pay gap, which – almost 50 years after the Equal Pay Act went through – still means that women are earning 13.7% less than men in the UK, according to the ONS.
This Saturday 10 November is known as Equal Pay Day, the marker in the year that denotes the moment women effectively stop earning, compared with men, all because of discrimination and inequality. Cue memes about why you should hire women (because they’re cheaper than men!) and empty promises from companies promising to work harder to close their gender pay gap and then doing very little about it.
The gender pay gap is so entrenched in our society that, at times, it can feel near impossible to lessen it. The government has already decreed it is illegal, forced companies with more than 250 employees to reveal their gap, the media has shamed the worst offenders – and the gap is still there.
But it’s important to remember that things are getting better. The pay gap has lessened in the last few years and, the more that campaigns like #EqualPayDay keep going, the more that things will get better. It’s also not just up to big employers and top CEOs to close the gender pay gap. Every single one of us can play a part.
So, this Equal Pay Day, why not think about taking action in one of the ways listed below? Whether it’s having a serious pay conversation with a male colleague, joining the social media blackout or donating to funds, there are plenty of options.
Change your OOO response
Last year, everyone at The Pool changed their Out Of Office response to say “Out of Office. For the rest of the year. Not really. I’m just making a point.” The idea was to use email OOOs to spread the message about the gender pay gap and we’re going to do the same this year.
The Women’s Equality Party and Now have also come up with a series of gifs and jpegs for people to post to make it look like their social media and websites aren’t working. Because, as the OOO email suggestion says, “Today is effectively the last day women in the UK are paid to work. Because of the gender pay gap, the average woman is working for free until the end of the year. So, if women aren’t getting paid, why should they work? #OutOfOffice.”
Ask your male colleagues what they earn
We all know that no one likes talking about money in Britain. It’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable, even if you’re being told you’re getting a pay rise. But it’s also the only way to achieve transparency and make sure that companies cannot get away with paying their male staff more than their female staff. Just take the BBC – many women were able to campaign for pay rises as soon as they discovered their male peers were earning more than them.
It’s why more women could really benefit from asking our male colleagues what they earn. It sounds scary, but a recent Fawcett study found that half of all workers would be willing to share their salary information with a colleague whom they didn’t know very well, if they thought they might be experiencing discrimination. This figure jumps to 62% for women and 57% for men if it was a colleague who they knew well in their team.
60% of workers are unaware that they have a legal right to have conversations with colleagues about pay if they think they are being discriminated against because of their gender
Spread the word
If talking about salaries with male colleagues feels too challenging, then another equally important option is to raise awareness about the gender pay gap in the workplace. The same Fawcett study found that one in three men and women in work do not know that it is illegal to pay men and women differently for equal work. Even though the Equal Pay Act came about in 1970, people still don’t know enough about it – and don’t even feel they can talk about it. Sixty per cent of workers are unaware that they have a legal right to have conversations with colleagues about pay if they think they are being discriminated against because of their gender, while 31% of workers believe their contracts ban them from talking to colleagues about pay – despite this being legally unenforceable.
A simple way to combat this is to start initiation conversations about equal pay, gender pay gaps and discrimination in the workplace. And what better day to do it than on Equal Pay Day?
This year, the Fawcett Society and employment law charity YESS Law have launched a new Equal Pay Advice Service, which aims to help women on low incomes who believe they are experiencing pay discrimination and who do not have access to legal advice. It was set up with a generous donation from former BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie from backdated pay she received after it came out that she was being paid over £100,000 less than male peers. “The fight for equal pay often pits a lone woman against a very powerful employer,” she explains. “Without the support of other BBC Women and without great legal advice, I would have struggled to get through my own equal pay ordeal. I feel particularly concerned about low-paid women who may not be able to afford legal advice, and I hope support from our new Equal Pay Advice Service will help give them the confidence to pursue their rights.”
The Equal Pay Advice Service is now active, but still needs funds. So, if you’re in a position to make a donation, you can do so here on GoFundMe at gofundme.com/equalpaynow.
RSVP to The End of The Pay Gap party
Unfortunately, this is not a real party. But a group of great profile are sending out invitations to The End of The Pay Gap Party, which is set to take place on 10 November 2235. “You’re invited to the party of the millennium marking the end of the gender pay gap,” reads the invitation. For anyone who doesn’t want to wait 217 years to celebrate the end of the gender pay gap, there is another option. People are encouraged to RSVP by clicking on this button, which automatically sends out a tweet to their local MP, asking them what they and their party are doing to close the gender pay gap.