Following the success of yesterday’s Third Sector Women lunch and learn networking session, Radar takes a closer look at the equality/fairness debate, with a particular focus on gender equality.
The equality debate has taken centre stage over the last few weeks, to some extent unsurprisingly due to proximity of the implementation of the 2010 Equality Act, the release of the film Made in Dagenham, and the publication of the ‘How Fair is Britain?’ report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The fact that all these things come into the public eye against the backdrop of a public sector austerity drive which it is feared will hit certain groups disproportionately only increases the urgency of the voices in the debate.
The implementation of about 90% of the Equality Act and ‘Made in Dagenham’ both garnered much comment and coverage, but it seems that the EHRC’s report, which showed a Britain in which race, gender, class, and disability can still manifestly affect one’s opportunities in life really sparked the debate for many people. The 700 page report argues that while Britain is a “tolerant and open-minded society”, inequality of opportunity is still rife. Headlines from the report include:
- The poorest can expect to live seven years less than the richest
- Boys are falling far behind in education with girls outperforming them at ages 5, 16 and degree level.
- The ageing society means that women have a 50% chance of becoming a carer before they reach 59
- Progress on the gender pay gap is ‘grinding to a halt’, and remains at 16% on average, with much variety depending on education.
You can watch a video summary from the commission here.
‘Fairness’ is currently much in fashion in Westminster, with the leaders of all 3 main political parties using their conference speeches to stake their commitment to it. While the pursuit of fairness seems like it should fairly inoffensive, some commentators this week took exception. The Telegraph claimed that a fair society is not necessarily an equal one, arguing that fairness is about equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome, and Julian Glover in The Guardian made the case for equality being undesirable for the left. Glover’s article promptly provoked a number of indignant letters from readers, and both his and the Telegraph’s article was countered by Martin O’Neill in The Guardian. Ed Rooksby’s article in the same paper is a considered piece on the complexity of equality for the political left, and provides a good summary of how the debate played out this week.
Third Sector Women aims to connect women working at all levels across the third sector in order to create fresh opportunities for professional development that enable women to pursue careers of choice. The subject of Thursday’s session was pay and equality, so here are some pieces which caught my attention on that front over the last week or so. The blogger Flip Chart Fairytales sets out an impressive summary of the issues around the current pay gap to make the point that blaming employers for the pay gap ignores other factors including the ingrained social attitudes which lead men and women to approach their careers in different ways. On that theme, here are two interesting pieces from the Harvard Business Review on gender issues in the workplace. One reports on some research from Duke University which claims that the ‘glass ceiling’ goes from being a hindrance to help as women move from below to above it. The second argues that new generations of female leaders are being stereotyped and hindered by the very leadership programmes that aim to support and progress them.