A BREAKTHROUGH YEAR FOR GENDER EQUALITY

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By Andrew Williams

Even in 2018, inequalities are inescapable across all walks of life. Yet, while the financial gap between the haves and have-nots is unfortunately growing, when it comes to gender equality there has been a definite cultural shift. Women are speaking up, which is perhaps best epitomized by the #MeToo movement, with women standing up against abuse, harassment, and violence, and sending shockwaves throughout Hollywood and beyond.

Of course, the situation isn’t perfect yet, but there has been solid headway. Women, and the progressive men among us, are uniting. Activist groups are organizing. They’re demanding that women are treated fairly compared with their male counterparts and that discrimination be expunged once and for all.

Across many continents, there have been defined movements to try to close the gender pay gap. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is a perfect example. She is leading the way as a woman in a powerful political position; helping gender equality hit the mainstream news cycle, causing ripples across social media, and bringing the debate to the masses.

NEW ZEALAND’S PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDERN IMPLEMENTING PROGRESSIVE POLICIES

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is paving the way for women across the world. She was the first ever head of state to take maternity leave when her first-born, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, was born in June 2018. During her six-weeks’ leave,  Ardern, in a trailblazing move, sat in her pajamas on her sofa and broadcast the details of her new “families package”, what she later called ‘her proudest achievement in office’.

As she spoke, Ardern dismantled perceptions of what’s expected from women in power. She also answered questions from viewers, many of whom voiced their support for their inspirational political leader.

“A Prime Minister wrapped in a blanket with a new baby still putting her country first. You are setting new boundaries, Prime Minister!”, wrote Facebook user, Audrie Scott.

Since taking office in October 2017, Ardern, a social democrat with progressive economic and social policies, has been proactive in shaping her country with reforms and tackling inequality for families.

This year, her government passed a bill to allow victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to leave their partners, find new homes, and protect their children. (The Philippines passed a similar act in 2004, and Australia introduced comparable legislation in March of this year.) Ardern’s Labour Party also backs fair pay and conditions for all, and she has said that she and her fellow members of Parliament (MPs) ‘will not rest’ until women have pay equity.

In a Financial Times article published in April 2018, she said, “I’m one of only 12 women who are current heads of government. That’s fewer than 7 percent of all world leaders. Only about 23 percent of national parliamentarians are women.” She added, “Stronger empowerment of women in the democratic process and government is vital”.

Ardern’s policies on climate change, tackling inequality, improving women’s lives in the home and workplace, and her plans to legalize cannabis by 2020, are a breath of fresh air to all progressives.

UK GOVERNMENT DEMANDS BUSINESSES REPORT ON GENDER PAY GAP

Much like Ardern, the UK, on the surface at least, appears to be concerned with gender pay equality in the workplace. In early 2018, Gender Pay Gap Reporting (GPGR) legislation from the Government Equalities Office required all companies in Great Britain, with over 250 employees, to report on the inequalities within their workforce in a push for greater transparency.

The 4 April 2018 deadline has now passed. Early results show that the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has reduced its gender pay gap to 8.4 percent, a fall of one-fifth since it self-published its figures 12 months earlier, The broadsheet newspaper, The Guardian, reported its pay gap had fallen from 12.1 percent in 2017 to 8.4 percent in 2018.

In the UK, the gender pay gap refers to the difference between earnings of both genders within an organization regardless of their position, as opposed to men and women working in the same role. GPGR is another step forward in the move to equality in the UK, but will other nations follow suit?

UNITE AND TAKE A STAND FOR GENDER EQUALITY

The fact that The Guardian and the BBC, two British national institutions, are taking action when it comes to gender equality, is sure to have a trickle-down effect across the global economy. As outlined here, both the UK and New Zealand are taking a stand for a reduction in gender inequality, but what about the rest of the world?

At ECOFEMINIST Magazine, we’re hopeful that with organization and sufficient social change, gaps will close and new laws will be formed, with equality for both sexes becoming a universal reality.