Gender inequality is the existence of hidden or obvious differences between individuals due to gender (Wood, 2005). It stems from differences which might be constructed socially or grounded empirically. It is pertinent to note that, gender is socially constructed through interactions. In addition, it is biological through hormonal differences, the structure of the brain and chromosomes. Thus, gender inequality is the outcome of continual prejudice of a group of people. In addition, gender inequality manifests itself in distinct ways depending on race, economic situation, politics, nation and culture. In most cases, gender inequality is considered an informal factor of violence on women.
Gender discrimination occurs to both sexes in individual situations. However, the gender inequality is more entrenched against women and a worldwide pandemic. This is despite article two of the United Nations Universal Declarations of Human Rights protecting everyone regardless of their gender. Gender inequality has been one reason of unending poverty in societies (Holmes & Espey, 2008). Thus, societies that are poor experience rampant gender inequality. Available knowledge and resources affect an individuals’ ability to recognize chances taking opportunities. From Asia to Africa, America to Europe and the whole world over, women have been denied their basic rights and unfairly treated. This essay discusses the gender inequality situation in Britain. The current situation and history on the policies adopted are discussed in this essay.
Britain has been accused of failing to bridge the gender gap. Apparently, there has been an increase in the number of women who were earning less than men (Batty, 2008). This is dangerous to any country. In addition, it is a clear indicator on how even the developed nations were not able to deal with gender inequality wholly. The increase in the gender gap led to a slip in the Global Gender Gap index by the World Economic Forum.
It is evident that, anti-discrimination law in Britain only developed recently. The Acts of Parliament in the olden days and the common law approaches were outright discriminatory on women gender. There existed prejudices based on class societies. There were heirs recognized as the legitimate owners of the thrones and leadership. Undisputedly, women were marginalised from participating in any social event. In fact, part of the unwritten law was that, only men were entitled to voting representatives to Parliament (Becker. 1971). The advocates of universal suffrage took over the fight for women’s right for voting and achieved a lot. This was met with stiff opposition form both the judiciary and the political establishment then. However, meaningful started after later legislations.
Equality among the sexes has been a factor for the employment laws since the 1970s. The Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970, while the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced in 1975. These two pieces of legislation brought what was to be dubbed the equal opportunity legislations. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 legislates on any less favourable treatment amongst the two genders. Pay under this context includes bonuses payable, wages and salaries, company allowances, pensions or any other types of pay. On the other hand, the Sex Discrimination Act protected people on grounds of gender or women. In addition, it was concerned about harassment, disposal of premises, employment, and provision of services, training and education of all people. This was to be achieved regardless of the sex of the people.
The Sex Discrimination Act was established in 1975 and was later to be strengthened by subsequent legislation. First it was amended in 1986 and other amendments were introduced later in 1989, and another one in 2006. However, in 2008 an amendment on the legislation together with the Gender Recognition Act 2004 enabled it to start recognizing transgender. This was a positive as far as gender inequality in Britain was concerned.
Jane Lewis’ path-breaking account of 1992 described the United Kingdom as a male breadwinner model. The policies on gender differences were deeply rooted in the society by post-war ideas (Lewis, 2001). As such, men were expected to be the sole breadwinners in the society. However, the New Labour party from 1997 committed itself to bring radical changes to the society. Such measures started in 1997 and included bringing changes that will enhance women chances to employment. There was a change in the hiring process, in effect; women were able to get equal employment chances just like men did. In addition, the pay was hiked but could but equality had not been fully attained by the end of the millennium. In fact, women’s lifetime earnings were measurable to half the men’s earning (Rake, 2000). A clear indication that Britain had not fully attained gender equality as far as high wages was concerned. This was obvious that, the breadwinner model still worked.
On the other hand, the glass ceiling has been in existent for more than thirty years now. The glass ceiling provides for enabling women and minority equal chances with those that are privileged in the society. However, women in a survey conducted on more than three thousand top managers gave varying responses depending on their gender. About 73% of the women respondents in the sample agreed that glass ceiling existed, on the other hand, only about 38% of men thought otherwise (BBC, 2011). This was significant since women felt that there existed unequal treatment pertaining management opportunities. On the other hand, men felt that, there were a lot of chances for women and minorities to progress in management.
Women’s work has been widely undervalued (Grimshaw and Rubery, 2007). Effectively, women have been paid low wages compared to their male colleagues. This has been happening over the world for a long period with Britain not being exemption. It is evident in Britain that, female graduates received lower pay compared to the men whom they got employment with. In addition, the pay gap has been increasing with time (Purcell and Elias, 2004). There is a segregation of the labour market and the hierarchies are a preserve of certain genders over time. Most jobs and job pattern favour a male working model and women have perpetually been locked out. In effect, the pay gap keeps on increasing benefiting man and at the same time enhancing gender inequality.
Although the jobs patterns work against women, the pay gap has been closing over time. There is a clear and established trend since the 1980s. The pay ratio of women to that of men increased from 66% to 73% in 1984 and 2003 respectively (Grimshaw, 2007). This is a clear indication of the gains that have been achieved due to the measures put in place to improve on gender equality. However, this was not achieved mainly by the Labour Party only. In fact, the Conservatives reign in 1987-95 realised more substantial gains in gender equality (Grimshaw, 2007).
One of the key Labour Party’s elements is increasing participation of women in the labour market (Fagan, 2003). Although the male-breadwinner model is still deep-rooted in unequal working hours, women have been given equal chances with men. However, the pay gap needs to be entirely closed to attain gender equality. Another element of the Labour Party is the introduction of flexible working time for women. All-Women Shortlist was introduced in 2003 to encourage women request flexible working hours provided they had children below the age of eighteen years (Lewis and Cambell 2007).
The Labour Party intended to increase the number of female Members of Parliament. In effect, they started a political practice dubbed “all-women shortlists” (Andy, 2006). This was in line with the Equal Opportunities Act where some constituencies were a preserve of women. All-women shortlist was supposed to achieve gender equality in parliament. Effectively, prejudices geared towards selection and candidacy of women were broken. Consequently, in 1997 and 1005, 50% of women MPs who were elected were from the all-women shortlist (Cutts and Fieldhouse, 2008).
The all-women shortlist has been effective in enhancing gender equality in Britain. With an increased number of women in the political arena, parliament increased its priorities on issues based on gender. Such issues are increased funding for women’s health. Effectively, the life of the mother and child during birth were guaranteed. In addition, there was more attention towards domestic violence and childcare. The Labour Party also gained politically by having many members of parliament elected on their party ticket (Andy, 2006). The All-Women Shortlist also enabled Britain get Jacqui Smith, its first female Home Secretary in June 2007. However, there is still criticism on All-Women Shortlist on discrimination on men. Effectively, opponents of the policy cite it is a form of gender inequality on men (Drude, 2006).
In Britain, the Police Foundation recognizes the rights of all individuals against discrimination, harassment, victimisation and bullying on many grounds with gender being one. This goes hand in hand with the Equal Opportunities Act. However, with such measures in place, the highest police ranks remain a preserve of men (Campbell & Fife-Schaw, 1995). In addition, women are frustrated in progression of their careers. However, one factor that was notable is that, over time sexual harassment in the police force was becoming extinct.
The Icelandic Act (2000) on Parental leave has had an enormous impact on how people view the role of gender on parenting (Arnarson & Mitra, 2010). The law changed the perception of men towards parenting with the extension of leave to a period of nine months. In the nine months leave period, the mother takes a three-month leave while the father takes the same number of months. The remaining three months shared between the mother and father. This helps fathers and mothers have equal responsibilities in parenting. Essentially, gender equality is guaranteed.
The Equal Opportunities Commission gave a report concerning the existence of gender inequality in the country (Carvel, 2007). It is evident that, gender inequality still existed in the country even after thirty years of fighting the pandemic. Although the All-Women Shortlist had made some gains in the political arena, there still existed discrimination on women in the political scene. In fact, the report found an existing gap in parliament with only 20% of women representatives (Carvel, 2007). To achieve gender equality could take more than a hundred years. In addition, the boardrooms were still unbalanced despite measures to create equal opportunities for women.
All in all, the process of attaining gender equality has been painstakingly slow. Although gains have been made, there still are gaps and lack of level playing fields. Most of these gaps are against the women folk. However, there is a growing health gap that disadvantages men. The NHS policies are not male-friendly. Effectively, men are at a health risk since focus has been more on women (Carvel, 2007). To have complete gender equality, there is the need to hasten the speed for implementing these policies set out.