I ruined another perfectly good pair of tights today. This is an office problem that men don’t have – at least, none of the men I’ve worked with. Women earn 17% less than men in full-time roles, and we have a greater burden when it comes to clothes. How is that fair? Tights don’t seem to last five minutes. One of my male colleagues recently commented he had owned a particular pair of shoes for ten years – and they still looked fine. Much complaining from us women about the fact that our shoes aren’t designed to last more than a year or so before they look scuffed, the heels wear out, and shoe shops are encouraging us to shell out on new ones (which I did, on the way home from work on Thursday). Not for us the ‘one black suit, one blue’ to wear on alternate days, with a handful of shirts and a selection of ties bought by relatives.
I did once work with a great guy who never wore the same tie twice. He had an incredible selection, and thought nothing of coming into the office in July with a tie that played ‘Jingle Bells’. But apart from a few people like him, men don’t need a huge working wardrobe. I think I’ve worn the same jumper to work three dress-down Fridays in a row and this week I’ll have to find something else to wear as people must be starting to notice.
Apart from the wardrobe crisis pre-planned for Friday morning, that day also sees the Gender Equality Duty come into force in Great Britain. This means that all public authorities in England, Wales and Scotland must demonstrate that they are promoting equality for women and men and that they are eliminating sexual discrimination and harassment. Have we really had to wait until now there are laws about equality? Of course not. We’ve had the Equal Pay Act since 1970. So what will this one do that the others don’t? Apparently, it will bring about “real change” in the way that public bodies like schools and universities handle discrimination, but it doesn’t make equal pay reviews compulsory.
As I understand it, there is a statutory duty to eliminate unequal pay for equal work, and although the Equal Opportunities Commission advises that pay reviews are the way to go, there is no obligation for public bodies to do them. It seems like a lot more paperwork for public authorities to show they are meeting the requirements of the duty, for not much benefit for service users, who will probably just get a leaflet explaining how their needs are being met under the new regulations. I hope I’m proved wrong, and that this new initiative actually makes some real progress to addressing the pay gap, although I imagine that clothing allowance for women to compensate for going through a few pairs of tights a week won’t be part of the reforms. I shall just have to be more careful.