100-Years of Progress, but the Gender Equality Struggle Continues

07 January 2019

February 6th marks 100-years since [some] women in Britain were given the right to vote. It’s a landmark achievement that should be celebrated. Yet it’s also a timely reminder that progress alone should not be the extent of our ambitions when it comes to gender equality.

Back in 1918, after years of protests led by the indomitable Suffragette movement, the Representation of the People Act was passed. For the first time, women had the right to cast their ballot.

Not all women, however. In fact, just 8 million – 40% of the female population at the time – actually gained this civil liberty. See, in order to qualify for the ‘privilege’, a woman had to be over the age of 30 and either own land herself, or be married to a man who did. The same Act simultaneously lifted previous restrictions on men’s rights, lowering the voting age from 30 to 21 to ensure gender inequality remained enshrined in UK society.

A positive step forward in the history of women’s rights then, sure, but it took another decade and further struggle for women to gain full parity with men at the polling station.

100 years on, gender inequality still pervades most areas of society. This is arguably most keenly felt in the workplace, where pay gaps and underrepresentation in positions of power are rife. Let’s look to the UK advertising industry for an example.

According to research from the IPA, just 30.9% of C-suite positions within agencies are held by women – up from 30.3% in 2016. Compared to 2006, when 23.3% had a female incumbent, this represents progress. Yet as history confirms, the battle must go on.

The IPA’s study shows that the number of women working junior levels of the industry has climbed steeply over the past decade. This is great news in that widens the talent pool available to both agencies and their clients, but it is imperative that they’re now given the same opportunities to reap the same rewards as their male peers.  There is no biological, psychological or sociological justification for opposing this stance.

As Guerillascope’s managing director, I am extremely proud to work alongside a strong team of women and men within a culture that depends on equal opportunity. We’re passionate about ensuring that every single employee – regardless of their gender, age or ethnic background – can come into the office knowing their hard work and strong results will pay dividends. We all have access to the same opportunities, which in turn motivates each member of the team, boosts morale, and creates an inclusive culture.

Yet I also know we can do even more. With new IPA guidelines coming into play, I’m excited by the impact greater diversity and equal opportunity will have on our industry. Today we celebrate the past achievements of courageous women who refused to be subjugated; tomorrow, and every day thereafter, we must all join forces across every area of society to ensure their legacy continues to be built upon.

Katy Sharpe is Managing Director at Guerillascope.

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