I, along with the rest of the world, witnessed a weekend of historic demonstrations in the name of women’s rights. Hundreds of thousands of women marched on Saturday in respective cities around the world to show solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington, D.C – the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the president of the United States.
I have to admit, when I first saw the comments about the marches I was slightly confused. I honestly thought discrimination was a thing of the past. I thought to myself, “What is all this about anyway?” This is because, I realize now, I live in a prejudice-free bubble. As a white male, it’s easy for me to forget what is actually going on in the rest of the world because racism and sexism is something I don’t have to deal with.
I’m hurt and upset over some of the things I’ve read and seen. The stories that have come out of the marches are truly shocking. Sometimes, it takes social mobility or action to really wake us up. That’s precisely what these women’s marches have done for me and I know now it’s more important than ever before to have these conversations. I’m glad for the marches because it’s opened my eyes to issues I genuinely thought were a thing of the past.
I’m sorry if this post seems arrogant to some. But I feel compelled to write this, to perhaps open the eyes of colleagues and acquaintances and for them to see that sexism and discrimination is still present in the workplace. And now, two days after the marches, the news outlets say we must “take the next steps.” These next steps will be difficult, especially after the emotional and overwhelming response to the marches. This power the marches have created must be mobilized to create social change.
However difficult, I think it can be done. There are things that need to change in the workplace, and I think these changes will have a positive effect for both men and women. Here are the two most important aspects I’ve become aware of, and as a business owner, what I intend to do about them.
Equal rights in the workplace
It was surprising and upsetting to read that women still only make 77 cents to every man’s U.S dollar. In the U.S, the average salary of a woman working full-time is $37,791. For a man, it’s $49,389. This isn’t because women choose lesser-paying jobs; and it’s high time we stop trying to rationalize these things with this type of backwards thinking. These pay discrepancies are found when male and female employees both work in the same industry, and often, when they even have the same occupation.
As employers, it’s up to you to be able to offer a woman the same wage as her male counterpart. Millennial women are taking a stand against gender pay inequality, making it unacceptable for employers to treat them this way. For women under 30, the most cited reason for leaving a position is because they have found a higher-paying job.
Employers, the message is loud and clear. If you want to keep your star female employees, it’s time to start paying them the same as their male colleagues.
Proper maternity leave for men and women
…That won’t affect promotion. This is the issue, as women in most modern countries are guaranteed some form of maternity leave by law. In the UK, full-time employees can be paid for up to 39 weeks at 90% of their average weekly earnings. While it sounds fair, research shows that maternity leave can drastically effect a woman’s career and chance of promotion.
According to a report published recently by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, women returning from maternity leave are more likely to face discrimination in the workplace than they were a decade ago. The study found that around 54,000 new mothers lose their jobs across the UK every year – almost twice the number found in similar research undertaken in 2005. What makes it even more devastating is the fact that a man can only legally receive two weeks of paid paternity leave – leaving families with limited options.
So what can be done?
Through all of this, the most important thing takeaway is to pay attention and be aware. If something doesn’t affect you, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Listen to what marginalized groups have to say and take action to help any time you can. While sexism and discrimination in the workplace won’t be solved today or tomorrow, we can at least put in the effort to ensure our children enter a safe and more compassionate workforce.
Giles Cadman is the Chairman of The Cadman Capital Group, a group of cohesive, complementary companies, operating in the international trade, retail, leisure and investment markets. Giles is passionate about wine and sustainability. Learn more