A single article can not reflect the countless successes women are achieving across the globe. Nor can it reveal all the gender inequalities women still face, and the slew of new challenges that have to be resolved. But it’s International Women’s Day, so here are some of the best, most striking examples.
1. How one woman turned high-school bullying into pay transparency
When she was nine, Tracy Lawrence escaped the cruel gossip of school by eating her lunch in a bathroom stall.
As the current CEO of Chewse, a US office catering startup, she turned this memory into a lesson: malicious gossip is for children and not adults. And what’s the most undermining source of gossip in an office? Salary.
So, taking the plunge, Lawrence sent an email to all her employees revealing everyone’s salary, from the leadership team on down. The fallout, to her relief, was positive. The company has high retention, employees who do leave give 5.25 weeks’ notice (far higher than the two week national average) and 72 per cent believe they’re fairly compensated (compared to a 20 per cent national average).
In terms of equality, there might be no better way to turn the seemingly go-nowhere pay gap discussion into affirmative action. No longer would the issue be avoidable, clouded in misinformation or innuendo. It would be a spreadsheet in every employee’s email inbox, that nobody could ignore.
2. A place in the world where the pay gap is in favour of (some) women
In a case that’s as much a quirk of demographics as it is an inspiring story of gender equality, a new survey by the Fawcett Society reveals that Irish and Chinese women in the UK are now earning more on average than white, British men. Irish women are earning 17.5 per cent more, while Chinese women are earning 5.6 per cent.
“This is largely due to generational factors, as they are more likely to be older, working full-time or in senior or managerial roles,” Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, told the Irish Times.
So while Chinese women might be earning more than white men, they are earning less than Chinese men and that pay gap is widening (from 4.6 per cent of their salary a decade ago to 11.5 per cent today). And black African, black Caribbean, white British, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are all learning less than white British men.
On the one hand it’s good news – overall the pay gap is shrinking, just at very different rates for different demographics. On the other hand, “very different rates” means that for some women it’s shrinking so slowly it’s barely perceptible and for other women “overall” means the gap is actually widening.
3. Break through the glass ceiling, find yourself on a glass cliff
We’ve all heard of the glass ceiling, the barrier that prevents most women from reaching top level positions, but have you ever heard of the glass cliff? It’s the phenomenon where women are given top level roles in an organisational crisis.
The term originated with two professors, Michelle Ryan and Alexander Haslam, in research from 2005 that challenged a report claiming companies with women on their boards suffered share price losses. The actual truth being that companies in trouble will consider anything, even hiring a woman. The sinister aspect of the glass cliff is that anyone accepting these roles is being positioned to fail but, because women are more likely to be chosen, some people develop the misapprehension that women are less capable leaders.
This isn’t a theory exclusive to the business world. As the New York Times points out, after former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, quit in the face of the Brexit referendum and Boris Johnson withdrew his leadership bid to replace him, the two top candidates for a politically polarised country were women.
And now for the lightning round
- Has modern feminism lost its way? Do the women who get power end up behaving like men? Has the movement become so concerned with superficial social media fights that it’s now toothless? That’s what author Jessa Crispin believes. In fact, she’s so fed up with what feminism has become she’s dropping the term all together.
- What’s the best way to spend International Women’s Day? Making a political statement, distinguishing yourself at work or punching and elbowing another woman in the face? For some people in Ontario, Canada that last option is the most attractive. SHEfights #BeBoldForChange is an all female amateur muaythai event charging $30 for general admission. The website is stridently pro women, “Each of us – with men and women joining forces – can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and take bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.”
- Shiona Watson, HR director at PepsiCo New Zealand, was promoted a week before she gave birth and claims the company’s smart flexible work arrangements gives them a big leg up. The main difference? “Leaders leave loudly” and make obvious use of flexible work so all employees know it’s okay. An example: a manager at the company tells colleagues he will skip out on meetings when they conflict with him playing on the company’s soccer team.