A woman’s place is in her union

International Women’s Day was first marked in 1911, with demonstrations across the globe on the anniversary of a protest against poor conditions by garment workers in New York. Whilst incredible progress has been made in the century since, we know that there is still much more work to be done.

Workplaces must put in meaningful action plans to address gender wage gaps, and the conditions in which their women employees work.

There should be full openness on the gender breakdown of an organisation’s workforce, not just as a whole but at each different organisational level all the way up to senior management and executives. Social media graphics for one day is not a way to create meaningful change.

There should be transparency about pay, so that women can knowledgeably negotiate for and demand equal pay. We have seen, even today, many of the organisations celebrating IWD do not have policies to match their words.

Employers should follow the example of companies like Zurich and provide properly paid paternity leave for at least 16 weeks to make sure caring roles are equally shared, creating equality at home which will follow into workplaces too.

Employers should also work harder to be more inclusive of those experiencing menopause.

We know that many of our members who are going through menopause at work experience high levels of anxiety and depression. They told us that they are feeling unable to talk to line managers or colleagues about what they were experiencing. Women felt they were unsupported, pushed out of work, unable to access training or promotion opportunities.

Today we have seen London City Hall announce the introduction of menopause leave. This is a world-leading example of a workplace recognising the needs of those experiencing menopause, and should be a model for other employers going forward. Our digital menopause at work guide can be read here.

We also encourage employers to grant paid time off for smear tests, and campaign for government help enshrine this right in legislation.

Many women who are working flat out, who don’t have the luxury of flexitime and working from home, simply don’t have a spare slot in the day to attend a smear test appointment. For them, a smear test once every three or five years is something that can so easily fall by the wayside.

As cervical screening uptake continues to fall, all companies with employees to commit to being a #TimeToTest employer.

These are just a few actions that can be taken by those articulating support for International Women’s Day today that would profoundly improve the experience of women struggling to have a family, work, and progress at work.

At Community, our workplace Equality Reps advise the branch on equalities issues and support members from under-represented groups. As the main part of their role they raise awareness on discrimination and equalities issues, map workplaces to ensure the branch is representative of all employees and carry out equalities surveys.

This International Women’s Day, and every day, we must stand up and say that a woman’s place is in her union, and continue to fight for equality in the workplace.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at help@community-tu.org or on 0800 389 6332.

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