What does the next 100 years hold?

As part of our series of blogs about the upcoming vote on WI resolutions for 2015 (for more details, see our earlier blog post), we’re considering the use of antibiotics. We’re writing these posts to kick-start the debate about these issues in advance of our December meeting; they don’t reflect any particular view or an ‘official’ view of the Sotonettes Committee so please read them with that in mind. We want to know what our members think so please let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

Today is an interesting day for the discrimination debate as the Labour party vote to decide whether big companies should declare the gender pay gap that exists in the UK (for more information, see this article from The Guardian).

“As we mark 100 years of the WI, we deplore the unacceptable level of gender discrimination that still exists. We call on decision makers to remove barriers prevent today’s women and future generations reaching their full potential.”

Since the formation of the WI in 1915, life for women in this country has changed dramatically. For example, we now have the right to vote; our role in society has changed; education and professions have been opened up to women; and laws are in place against sex and pay discrimination. Free contraception on the NHS (1974); abortion laws (1967); the first UK, and so far only, female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher (1979). The world is a different place.

Has the equality battle really been won?

Women graduates are paid less than men. Only 22% MPs are women (in Sweden this is 43%). Only 6% of engineers are women. Only 16% of dads are stay-at-home dads. Women make up only 2% of all seafarers. There are only 103 male midwives out of 31,000.

Societal ideas about professions such as engineers, seafarers and midwives do not help. Neither does “will he be ok looking after the children whilst you’re away working?” (“Yes, they’re his children as well!”)

There are many sides to the debates about gender equality and the barriers that need to be removed. These barriers exist across society and range from what you expect an engineer or midwife to look like to what toys you expect a boy to play with (and what colour that toy is!).

In asking for gender equality we also need to look very closely slightly closer to home. This is the WOMEN’S INSTITUTE calling for changes in the unacceptable levels of GENDER DISCRIMINATION. The WI could be seen as conforming to gender discrimination by its very nature. The NFWI website states that so far men have not demanded the right to join the WI, and if they did it would require a change in the constitution and “only if the members choose to do so”.

We have not achieved equality and there is a long way to go. To achieve that equality, barriers do need to be removed, not only by employers but also in society more broadly and at a much younger age when ‘norms’ begin to form. This is a campaign for equality of both men and women.

Some interesting reading:

Male Midwives: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11202075/No-job-for-a-man-Meet-the-male-midwives.html
Female Engineers: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jul/20/female-engineers-forget-damsels-in-distress-british-industry
Inspiring Women: http://www.inspiringthefuture.org/inspiring-women/
Women at Sea: http://wista-uk.net/index.php/news/163-where-are-all-the-women-seafarers
Blue for Boys, Pink for Girls (Australian): https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/25664944/blue-vs-pink-gender-war-on-kids-toys/
Stay at home Dads: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/09/stay-at-home-dads-job-parents
Women’s Groups: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/10422520/womens-institute-wi-great-british-bake-off-women-only-no-men-feminism.html