Breaking the Bias For International Women’s Day
© Illustration by INJECTION - George Bamford
Breaking the inequalities still faced by women all over the world.
International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th March to honour the achievements of women culturally, politically and socioeconomically. Originally named ‘National Women’s Day’, it became recognised internationally in 1910 after Clara Zetkin, a German women’s rights activist suggested the idea at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. The day empowers women all over the world, commemorating several amazing accomplishments globally. The theme changes every year, where this year’s theme focuses on ‘breaking the bias’, raising awareness in issues of gender equality that women and girls are still facing today. Women strive every day to break the bias where there are still key issues in inequality in gender, race, disability and sexuality.
When it comes to race, there are still so many biases to break. For example, women of colour struggle to receive the same treatment in the workplace. With race specifically, it provides unique challenges to women of colour usually ignored, lacking consideration of which women they benefit. Generally speaking, unemployment rates in the UK are significantly higher for ethnic minorities, 12.9% compared to 5.3% for white people. Following this, Black workers in the UK with degrees earn 23.1% less on average in comparison to white workers. Narrowing it down to women of colour, it gets worse. For example, An LSE report highlighted Black women are the least likely to be part of the UK’s top earners when comparing any other racial or gender group. According to the Hampton-Alexander Review, there are now at least 32% women on the Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) boards. However, black and ethnic minority workers account for less than 10% and none of these are women.
The problem women face in the workplace is still on the mend, where there is still discrimination in the workplace just because of gender. Whilst the gender pay gap is slowly decreasing, it was found in 2021, more women were furloughed in the UK compared to men with a loss of pay. It is shocking how extreme the gender pay gap is, seen in the gender pay gap for full-time/part-time employees and their median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime). This is very dependent on occupation, where in April 2021, it was found production managers and directors in mining and energy had the highest pay gap, which was 45%.
© Graph from Office for National Statistics - Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE)
Women with disabilities, under the Equality Act suffer from combined discrimination as a result of their gender and impairment. Just under half of the disabled women are not employed or actively seeking work, making it difficult to support themselves financially. For those who do, there is a disability pay gap (different from the gender pay gap), which is as large as 18.9%, as well as being hit the most by recent tax and welfare reforms. This ultimately makes it more difficult for disabled women to live independently when there is so much going against them. It is clear action needs to be placed on women’s support services. Women with disabilities have complex needs all different depending on the individual, where they still lack the necessary support they need. For one, disabled pregnant women usually do not receive necessary support relating to their disability, where they would benefit from individualised care.
All this gender equality can be particularly detrimental to one’s mental health. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association in America (ADAA) women are twice as likely to experience general anxiety or panic disorder and develop depression or PTSD during their lifetime. Whilst the role of gender is only one factor that can play a role in mental illness, women are overrepresented in statistics as discrimination itself is linked to mental health symptoms. Sexism can make people more prone to many mental health risk factors, such as trauma, negative self-image and chronic stress. For example, women, at the forefront still spend more time than men parenting and taking time off from their jobs to take care of their children. They are also more likely to be unofficial carers to family members, where caring could negatively impact one’s health, such as through lack of sleep, leisure time, feeling socially isolated and earning less money.
Whilst women are celebrated all over the world on the 8th March for International Women’s Day, it is important to highlight the inequalities women still face to this day. Inequalities still stand in several factors, such as race and disability, which can be particularly detrimental to one’s mental health. Societys’ gender norms place great emphasis on women’s ‘roles’ at home and can also be particularly damaging, as it puts too much pressure on one person when it should be equal between men and women. We must work on closing the gap between these inequalities and acknowledge it’s a real issue. Let’s break the bias!