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The WEF puts the UK at 26th for Gender Equality – It’s still too low

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has announced that Iceland has the greatest level of gender equality in the world. The rankings are based on equal work for equal pay, access to education, the ability to exercise political power and health. Shockingly, the UK does not even feature in the top 20 countries, placed 26th overall (out of 142 participating countries), and superseded by the likes of Rwanda and the Philippines. Apparently this is due to the slight widening of the gender pay-gap following the recession, which caused changes to women’s incomes and stood at 19.1% in August, according to the Fawcett Society. In 2006, the UK was ranked 9th but since then has steadily declined.

The question is: will we continue to slip down the rankings?

With feminism recently becoming more ‘fashionable’ (see Karl Lagerfeld’s Spring 2015 Chanel feminist march) and gender inequalities being highlighted increasingly in the news, one would be forgiven for thinking that some of these ideas were actually being put into practice. However, women are still underrepresented politically in the UK and struggling to keep up with more progressive countries such as Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark (numbers 1 to 5). In fact, the Daily Mail’s Downing Street Catwalk is a perfect example of the lack of respect given to female politicians when they are given the opportunity to represent the public. In case you missed this, the Daily Mail wrote an ‘article’ about the new women in politics, following the cabinet reshuffle in July, that focused entirely on their clothes, hair and makeup, which of course have enormous impacts on their political competence. No doubt this kind of demeaning, sexist media coverage is contributing to the subconscious societal view that women deserve lower wages than men for equal work.

Needless to say, this is utter rubbish. However, it is worth acknowledging that the UK is not at the forefront of gender equality, so we cannot afford to be complacent. Women are still underrepresented politically and still paid less than men for equal work. They are even still being encouraged to wear  ‘loads of makeup, high heels, lipstick and wear short-skirts’ by people such as The Apprentice 2014’s Sarah Dales in order to be more successful at work. Not only does this undervalue the work women do, it suggests they are incapable of being successful without having their sexuality exploited. This is perhaps another reason why the UK is slipping down the WEF rankings for gender equality.

So what does this study actually mean?

Ultimately, the equality between men and women in the UK is better than most other countries in the world – the UK is ranked 26th, whereas Yemen is the least equal country placed at number 142 – but it is far from perfect. If anything, it is about time that employers take note of the WEF’s study and start paying all employees based on the work that they do, not their gender.

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