The clocks have gone back, and this weekend sees many families heading out to enjoy Bonfire Night, essentially recognising a foiled plot. The first celebration saw the bonfires we see today lit on the day Guy Fawkes was arrested, while the Observance of 5th November Act came into law the following year. It ensured the population was annually reminded of the plan’s failure via Gunpowder Treason Day – one of the forerunner of today’s public holidays. Although it was repealed in 1859, the day remains a key event throughout Britain and, as a result, around the world.
This month should also mark the observance of Equal Pay Day. I say “should” as it will be marked by WIBF but, unlike Gunpowder Treason Day, it will not receive much national recognition. This is despite it also marking a failure – this time by significant sects in society to recognise and address the fact that women still don’t receive equal pay. Despite being enshrined in law, we still have to promote a day that seeks to address the gender pay gaps affecting millions given it usually goes unnoticed.
The reasons for this are numerous. Despite the number of people it seeks to recognise, it’s a day that will not be marked by a public holiday. It’s also not noted on calendars. Some will say that this is because it moves. 2021 sees the day fall on 18th November, two days earlier than in 2020. I would argue that it’s because it’s a series of averages and is intangible. Every company has a different gender pay gap and individuals’ personal equal pay days are all different. This year may see the day receive even less attention given we have only just been able to calculate the date after the usual April deadline for companies to file the data was pushed back to just last month.
Financial services remains one of the worst sectors. Analysis published in the FT detailed that the median gap is 37% in financial services and insurance, while the bonus gap is 52%. It is absolutely huge and, although some firms have moved the needle, it is still not enough. Of course, one key reason for the differential is that there are far fewer senior women than men at the helm of financial services firms – or at the helm of companies across all sectors and governments as a picture of leaders at COP26 showed – but we don’t have a day to recognise that at all.
So, although there will be limited action, it would be great if we can flag that, overall, women will effectively be working ‘for free’ for the rest of the year from 18th November. And, given the last few newsletters have asked for action, and I appreciate how busy everyone is, I wanted to ask ‘only’ that you make a note in your calendar and mark the day on social media – we will and hope you can share our posts.
President of WIBF