With 2018 beginning, we celebrate the centenary of women getting the vote! Of course, as any historian will tell you – the Representation of the People Act in 1918, while extending the franchise to all men over the age of 21, only allowed women over the age of 30 who were householders the right to vote. Nonetheless, it remains an incredibly significant event in history. So important, even Celebrity Big Brother has claimed 2018 is the “Year of the Woman” (by launching with an all-female line-up), and if that doesn’t say it all, then what does?
So important, even Celebrity Big Brother has claimed 2018 is the “Year of the Woman” (by launching with an all-female line-up), and if that doesn’t say it all, then what does?
1918 also saw the first woman, Constance Markievicz, win a seat in the Houses of Commons. However, Constance did not take up her seat in Parliament because of her allegiance to her party Sinn Fein, who refuse to take their seats in Parliament as they oppose the Houses of Parliament’s jurisdiction in Northern Ireland and refuse to swear an oath to the Queen. The first sitting female MP, Nancy Astor, came the following year.
While it seems that 100 years is plenty of time to make a good attempt to equalise representation in Parliament, we’ve still failed to achieve even a third female MPs in the House of Commons. Of the 18 Prime Ministers since 1918, just two have been women, whose own cabinets have failed to reflect even the male: female make-up of Parliament, let alone Britain.
Obviously, women have made strides in other areas in the last century – over 130,000 women secured University places this year, compared to 100,000 men – yet women’s rights organisation The Fawcett Society estimate it will take another 100 years to close the gender pay gap, with their estimation male full-time workers earn 14% more than women in full time work.
There are of course, complex reasons for this; difference in responsibilities, the disproportionate number of women in low paid and unskilled work, and in some cases, pure discrimination.
The latter, is one reason being increasingly challenged in the last few months globally. Over here, the BBC has hit the headlines after Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China editor, resigned from her position and accused the BBC of unlawful pay discrimination. Gracie found that some of the male international editors were being paid over 50% more than her. When raising the issue internally, Gracie was offered a £45,000 pay rise which she refused on the grounds of this still being unequal with her male counterparts – “I am not asking for more money. I believe I am very well paid already – especially as someone working for a publicly funded organisation. I simply want the BBC to abide by the law and value men and women equally”. This comes just a few short months after the BBC released figures for their 20 highest paid earners – and just 5 were women.
Equal pay certainly isn’t the only hot-topic issue on the equality agend-er for 2018 either. We’re seeing the continuation of conversations around sexual harassment and assault that was triggered by revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s treatment towards female actresses and employees. This led to a shockwave of accusations and allegations towards (predominantly) men in Hollywood – Ben Affleck, Kevin Spacey, and more recently Aziz Ansari.
(Photo: CBC News)
The last year especially has shown the revitalisation of the feminist movement in the mainstream – 2017 began with millions of women marching in cities all over the world, including London, in protest of the election of President Trump and his perceived misogynist or sexist attitudes and policy. The year ended with thousands upon thousands of women speaking out about their experiences with sexual harassment via letters, interviews and particularly social media, such as the viral #MeToo campaign on Twitter. If the first few weeks of 2018 are anything to go by, we’re in for another vital year of revaluating how we treat women and how we can make positive changes towards equality. Rather than wait 100 years for equality – let’s make 2018 the year of the Woman.