Equal Pay Day, 10th November, landed on a Saturday this year, so on Friday 9th companies across the UK discussed the topic of women essentially working for free until the end of 2018.
Of course, it's a lot more nuanced than that. It's not a simple of case of women getting paid the same as men for exactly the same job, but rather looking at the bigger picture of the Gender Pay Gap and how women, as a whole, earn less than men. Motherhood is, of course, the number one reason why women's salaries start to decline as they choose to work part-time hours whilst father's continue working 5 days a week. There are subconscious biases towards young women who are recently married and the fear of losing a member of staff to maternity leave approximately one year into the role. Yes, Shared Paternity Leave came into effect back in 2015, but 3 years on it is still socially unacceptable for men to take a significant amount of time off, with only 2% of companies finding themselves with dads wishing to share maternity leave with their partner (The majority of HR directors interviewed by My Family Care said that men taking SPL leave could be “frowned upon or career limiting”, despite it being an expectation for women).
I could talk about this for hours (and believe me, I have) but for now I have decided to join the Women's Equality Party's campaign by turning on my Out of Office. Except I've taken it a step further. Instead of putting on my OOO for the day of Friday 9th November, I've kept it on for the entire year.
You see, companies love to get behind equality. They love the marketing that comes with it because they can be seen as being progressive and part of the solution. But how many women have considered leaving their OOO on all year, only to decide against it because they fear rocking the boat. "Yes yes yes, you can do it for today but let's not get too political about your working rights, honestly." And it doesn't even matter if the response from their boss would be positive - if women fear being more outspoken about their rights to be paid equally, that's an a problem in itself.