Why we need men and women to #PressForProgress this International Women’s Day

Chloe Chambraud

Chloe Chambraud Director, Business in the Community Gender Equality campaign, speaks of the need for equality both at home and in the workplace if true parity is to be achieved.   


Today is International Women’s Day, and the theme this year is #PressForProgress, encouraging people to keep up the pressure to achieve gender equality. With the World Economic Forum suggesting it could be another 200 years before women achieve gender parity at the current rate, there is a strong need to come together to accelerate equality. For that to happen, we need to stop talking about gender equality as a woman’s issue. Unless we include men in this conversation, we will fail to make progress. 

2018 has seen movements such as #MeToo, Time’s Up and the Women’s March gaining solid traction. In many ways it feels like the balance has shifted and that women have finally made themselves heard.

Yet there are still a number of areas where women are being held back. Although the gender pay gap is at its lowest rate ever, progress remains much more sluggish than other high-income countries. The UK has slipped to 15th spot this year in a ranking of 33 OECD countries based on five indicators of female economic empowerment. This is a painful reminder that progress won’t happen organically; we need to work at it.

Addressing the root cause of inequality
The main reason for this pay gap is that women continue to shoulder the majority of domestic duties. UK women carry out 60% more domestic labour than men, with mothers providing 74% of childcare.

This imbalance puts women at a disadvantage and that’s why we need to focus our efforts on tackling this inequality. After the birth of the first child, women’s employment rates never fully recover to the same rates as men’s, even after 20 years. Our Project 28-40 research showed that a staggering 93% of mothers think it is difficult to combine having children with a career and 51% feel they were no longer given interesting or stretching work after having children. As a result, women are more likely to work part-time or be in low-skilled jobs and make up two-thirds of the low-paid.

In other words, we are forcing women to choose: work or family. To overcome this false choice, we need men to take a greater role at home so that women can fulfil their potential at work. And guess what? Men want this too, but gender stereotypes get in their way. I hear a lot of young fathers saying that their line managers just assumed that their partners would take the leave as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

The solution: allowing both men and women to fulfil their potential 
Men are parents too but their requests for flexible working are twice as likely to be turned down as mothers. Nearly a fifth said their employer was, at best, unsympathetic about their childcare issues and almost half of them said they had lied or bent the truth to their employer about family-related responsibilities.

Men may also be taking on caring roles for parents or relatives which their employers do not always recognise or support - 42% of the UK’s 4.27 million working-age carers are male, but just 72% of them are in employment. This represents a huge risk to employers, who may lose out on their best talent – both male and female - if they do not adapt to employees’ changing and complex lives.

So could supporting men to take on a greater share of caring responsibilities at home help to improve women’s progress at work? That’s what our new Equal Lives survey, in partnership with Santander UK, aims to find out. The survey will look at what holds men back from being more involved in caring responsibilities and what employers can do to better support them. It will open on Tuesday 13 March and will run until 11 May, with a report on the findings due to be published in September 2018.

I have always believed that gender equality is about men and women contributing equally to society. The Equal Lives survey aims to do just that. That’s why we’re calling on parents and carers from all backgrounds to take part and share their experiences in order to help create real change that benefits men, women and businesses. Only by listening to the stories of men and women will we be able to truly make progress on gender equality both at work and at home.