International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements, courage and independence of women all across the world. We should be proud of the progress made over the last 100 years. 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 in the UK. 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.
100 years on – and despite everything from the invention of central gas heating and CCTV to the discovery of DNA being attributable to women – gender inequality still pervades most areas of society. This is arguably most keenly felt in the workplace, where pay gaps, less opportunities and underrepresentation in positions of power are rife. Let’s look to the UK advertising industry for an example.
According to the latest IPA Diversity Survey, despite 52.6% of all media professionals now being women, just 32.7% of C-suite positions within agencies are held by females – up from 30.9% in 2016. Compared to 2006, when 23.3% had a female incumbent, this represents progress. Yet as history confirms, the battle must go on; as well as holding less senior positions, pay differentials between men and women at C-suite level also remain at 69.6% to 30.40%, while Heads of Department are subject to a differential of 60.1% to 39.9%.
What is evident is that the number of women working in junior levels of the industry has climbed steeply over the past decade. This is a fantastic achievement, 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 International Women’s Day, Time For Change and a host of other fantastic movements empowering women more than ever before, I’m excited by the impact greater diversity and equal opportunity will have on our industry and society as a whole. Brands, agencies and individuals all have a responsibility to ensure we reach this goal.
So, today we celebrate the achievements of courageous women who refuse to be seen as anything less than equal to men; tomorrow, and every day thereafter, we must all join forces across every area of society to ensure their leadership continues to be built upon.
Katy Sharpe is Managing Director at Guerillascope.