International Women’s Day: Confronting the gender pay gap

“As a woman about to graduate, I am increasingly aware that the glass ceiling is not a thing of the past.”


International Women’s Day highlights how much progress in gender equality still has to be made in many countries, organisations and corporations across the world.

Last week, The Tab revealed the shocking wage gap between men and women at Durham University.The news that academic-related female staff are paid 5% less than their male colleagues should leave everyone, regardless of gender and advantages, with a bitter taste in their mouth.

There have been incidents during my time at Durham where I have been in tears over things that have been said to me because I am a woman, but equally, I have been able to take advantage of the many opportunities offered to me for the same reason.

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You only have to read the University and College Union report, to understand the economic reality of structural sexism across university management. Students only have to consider the gender balance on their course and its lack of reflection in the staff that teach them, to begin to grasp the challenges that face women in academia.

If these challenges are still faced by women in one of the most liberal career areas in the country, what does that say about the inequalities that women face in all careers?

We are a generation who are scared to call ourselves feminists because we are deeply unsure of what being a ‘feminist’ means. One thing we can all agree on however, is that representing ourselves as ‘equalists’ would lead to stronger economies, further advances in science, a reduction in domestic and sexual violence, resilient family structures and a society that seeks to listen to the many competing voices within it.

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As a woman about to graduate, I am increasingly aware that the glass ceiling is not a thing of the past. My gender may not have hindered me in gaining a role on a graduate programme but I am aware that as I get older, it is probable, due to the increasing demands from other areas of my life, that my career will not have such a strong natural trajectory as the men who work beside me.

This is clearly one of the many reasons as to why such a gap remains in the pay between men and women at many universities.

Perhaps the insights I have gained into the inequalities still present at this university are a small taste of the challenges I will face in later life. We must realise that as highly educated men and women, the responsibility is increasingly falling on us to pave the way for further equality. If we do not support this fight for equality, then we are simply upholding the structures of inequality that negatively affect all members of society.

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There are simple things we can do to ensure that the efforts which our parents, government and society have made in gaining equality continues to progress. This involves being aware of our own voices – determining when we need to be more confident in the views we are voicing, or when we need to give others a greater chance to speak. We should not be afraid to question the status quo; as well as supporting those around us who are speaking up for the marginalised in society.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for all of us, male or female, to voice our opinions on the current state of the global society and the many inequalities that we face together.

Unless we stand up, represent ourselves and represent those less fortunate, our society will never progress to meet the ever changing needs of men and women in our ever evolving world.