Growing up in a household with three sisters and a very independent thinking and strong willed mother (and my father), my ideas on gender equality were formed from a very early age. To me an environment where we all had the same opportunities was normal; there were no restrictions placed by my parents on me or my sisters in relation to our aspirations and goals.
I think this sense of equality was even more real as we had emigrated from South Africa to England in the 1970s in the midst of the Apartheid era. In my early teens I was a regular attendee at anti-fascist marches across London and other events mainly sponsored by the then leader of the Greater London Council (GLC), “Red Ken” (Ken Livingstone). His platform included some ultra-left mantras but also focused on schemes to benefit women and minorities. That was then…
Now fast forward to 2014 and I would expect to see a world radically different and more equal in all senses of the word. So I was truly shocked to read the recently published Global Gender Gap Report by World Economic Forum (WEF), highlighting the disparity in pay, conditions and career prospects women still face.
Over the past few weeks I have explored through my blog, the alignment of HR with workspace design and technology, but this is rendered redundant if the future workspace (and broader society) still holds such inequality:
- A woman who started work the year after the Equal Pay Act was introduced (1970) would still, as of last year, have made cumulatively £253,000 less than a man. With compound interest, that’s more than £1.2m.
- The average salary in the UK is £26,500, which means the woman in this scenario would have to work an extra nine and a half years at the current wage rate to catch up with the man’s total earnings.
- Six out of ten of Britain’s largest companies are failing to hit a government target for representation of female directors (recent government data).
The list goes on, and all this in the weeks following the remarks by Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella who controversially advised women not to ask for pay rises, a man on a package worth more than $84m.
Going back to South Africa, I thought it would be poignant to quote Nelson Mandela, arguably the world’s ultimate male feminist who at the opening of the first parliament in 1994 declared:
“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression… Our endeavors must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.”
This week CBRE released their Genesis Report on The Future of Work and the Workplace, focusing on very relevant innovations and game changers; topics I will be covering in my next blog. Noticeably absent though was any real focus on gender equality and how this will influence the success and productivity of the workplace. I hope we can all put this back on the agenda!