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UK falls six places in gender equality rankings – Week 38

Are you new to Feminist Fact Friday? Read up on what this is all about in my Introduction to #FFF and view the rest of my #FFF articles here.

None of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children. That’s the sobering finding of the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which reveals that gender parity will not be attained for 99.5 years.

World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2020

One of the challenges of writing Feminist Fact Friday has always been staying on top of ever-shifting numbers. In January, at the very beginning of this series I focused on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2019 and their findings that it would take 108 years to achieve political parity worldwide and 202 years to achieve economic parity.

The latest Gender Gap Report has just been released and is a rallying cry for ambitious and innovative leadership and progressive policies that further the fight for gender equality. It’s appropriate that the report has been released just in time for my penultimate Feminist Fact Friday article, giving me the chance to round off this year’s posts and the urgent case for equality.

Why is this important?

The Global Gender Gap report 2020 said the gender wage gap in the UK was 16%, compared with 7% in Sweden and Norway. In the UK, more than three times the number of women are in part-time roles compared with men.

The Guardian UK falls six places in gender equality rankings

I grew up as part of a generation that assumed that gender equality had been achieved; people spoke of being colour blind and tolerant and we were a long way away from using words like ‘privilege’ in everyday language. I only realised I was a feminist in my mid-twenties because popular culture carefully constructs a web of lies that hides most of us from the truth: that we’re in a deeply unequal society where half of society are regularly discriminated against. For many people gender is only part of the battle, as there are further layers of inequality for people of colour, the disabled, LGBTQ+ people and the religious (amongst many, many others).

When I kicked off Feminist Fact Friday in January the UK was 15th in the world for gender equality. Having slipped six places it’s now not even in the top 20.

Time and again when discussing these issues I’ve received pushback, denials and complacent platitudes – ‘change takes time’ ‘we don’t want this to end in tears’ ‘be patient’ ‘you can’t expect things to move that quickly’ ‘not everyone cares about this as much as you do’ ‘there are bigger problems to fight’ ‘is it even a big deal?’ ad nauseam.

Not only has the UK slipped backwards, but the 202 years for economic participation that I wrote about in February have recently become 257. Two hundred and fifty seven years. Every defender of the status quo should think carefully about how their actions directly contribute to the 55 years we’ve just lost and remember that, as the WEF writes ‘None of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes’. We must and should do better.

Further findings of the report include:

  • Globally, gender parity stands at 68.6% and the bottom 10 countries have closed just 40% of the gender gap.
  • Political empowerment scores are poor. In terms of parliamentary representation, globally women have secured just 25% of available positions, a figure that slips to 21% at a ministerial level. At this level, there are nine where they have no representation.
  • In the past 50 years, 85 states have had no female head of state.
  • Globally, only 55% of women (aged 15-64) are engaged in the labour market as opposed to 78% of men.
  • There are 72 countries where women are barred from opening bank accounts or obtaining credit.
  • There is no country where men spend the same amount of time on unpaid work as women. In countries where the ratio is lowest, it is still 2:1.

I have repeated time and again that there is not a single sector in the UK where women earn more than men. * If inequality were random then probability would dictate that in some areas women would be leading. And this would seem particularly likely in women-dominated sectors such as education and carework. As I laid out in last month’s articles, women-dominated sectors continue to have a thick layer of male leadership to whom the money and power flows. That final fact at the end of the WEF’s report above shows even amongst the most progressive societies (Iceland is #1 for the 11th year running) women shoulder the burden of unpaid work.

What can you do about it?

The best framework for thinking about inequality is ‘Parkinson’s Law‘; one of my favourite adages, it explains that work expands to fill the time allocated to it. For as long as people offer empty words about ‘change taking time’, vaguely waving in the air and looking as they’ve offered some sort of wisdom, women will continue to wait. Give me a good reason I should wait that long – ‘it’s difficult’ and ‘people are upset by change’ just aren’t good enough – because complacency has consequences, which we now see in the dramatic six-place drop we’ve just seen for the UK.

Next time someone rails against inequality or the issues of our time (including climate change and the sweep of nationalism) fight against your urge to be lazy and complacent and think of action instead. Every single one of us can be part of the solution if we choose to be – and if we choose not to then we’re actively contributing to the problem.

So, if you’re looking to be part of the solution you can start by reading back through earlier Feminist Fact Friday posts. Knowledge is power.

Question your beliefs. Next time someone talks about sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia… if it’s someone on the receiving end of that treatment and your natural instinct is to defend the status quo just try to consider what it would mean for that person to be correct and how you could be part of making change happen.

Join any number of progressive organisations who are fighting the fight on sexism, from the Women’s Equality Party, through to the Fawcett Society, or Refuge and Women’s Aid who are protecting women from the scourges of entirely preventable violence. Whether you donate your time or money or just read up on any one of the issues they cover, you’ll still be contributing.

Buy a copy of Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez. Then buy a copy for at least two friends.

If you’re one of the ones who considers yourself ‘good’, who thinks that while others might behave like that, you certainly wouldn’t then please remind yourself good isn’t good enough. If you need an explanation then visit the last Feminist Fact Friday article on how educated women still earn less than men for a look at how thinking you’re ‘woke’ won’t cut it.

Fight for change for yourself and for your friends and colleagues. Women often get penalised for speaking up so one of the best ways to move the dial is to advocate for others. If your company’s pay gap is bad, campaign for awareness and change on other’s behalf. If your company’s parental leave policies are weak then petition your leadership to become more ambitious – whether you want children or not. If you find that not enough women in your business are promoted to senior positions then sing the praises loudly of your colleagues to make sure their achievements are noted.

I’d like to end by saying that going back through this year’s 38 posts on inequality should give you some excellent starting points for recognising discrimination (in itself a difficult task) and then addressing it.

Yours in solidarity,



World Economic Forum Mind the 100 Year Gap

Rupert Neate in the Guardian UK falls six places in gender equality rankings 16 December 2019

* “The data show that the pay gap persists in all 20 sectors of the economy, with none paying women more than men on average.” Aleksandra Wisniewska, Billy Ehrenberg-Shannon, Cale Tilford and Caroline Nevitt in the Financial Times Gender Pay Gap: women still short-changed in the UK 23 April 2019