Gender Equity in the Workplace  Term Paper
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Gender Equality: The United States versus the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is often called the mother country of the United States. However, in some ways, the countries still differ, including in their measures of gender equality. Perhaps the most notable example can be found in the leadership of the United Kingdom. Unlike the US, the UK has already had a female head of state, in the form of Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May, and before that the UK was led by female monarchs as heads of state. The US has lacked such a female figurehead at such a prominent position, though Hillary Clinton did come close to securing the White House in 2016, and several female Congresswomen have risen to prominent positions, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. Presidential hopeful Joe Biden has said on record that he will pick a female VP as his running mate, which means that if he wins in 2020 America likely will have its first female president since Biden has also indicated that he has no problem stepping aside and handing over the reins of power to his No. 2. Still, these are but a few examples, and the differences in gender equality between the US and the UK go beyond positions of power. They also touch on issues of the character of the women’s movements in the two countries, pay, leisure, and even how gender equality is viewed—though on this latter point the two countries have a bit more in common than they have different.
Where the Countries Differ on the Issues
Both nations lag in terms of ensuring equal pay for equal work, in terms of parity between the genders. In the UK, 78% percent of companies pay male employees more than female employees (Covert, 2018). However, the one silver lining to this statistic is that it was compiled at all, as the UK now requires all companies to make their salaries transparent and public, so at very least, companies can be publically shamed and held accountable. The US lacks such public data, and at many companies, sharing information about what one makes is considered taboo.
The UK also historically has a much stronger tradition of a militant women’s rights movement. It was not until the suffragette movement in the UK during the beginning of the 20th century began to take more radical measures to secure universal suffrage, including actions that might be considered terroristic today, including vandalizing buildings, bombing, cutting telephone wires, and even, in one case, throwing themselves in front of a race horse, that the US movement began to take similar actions (Gray, 2015). Without the radicalization of the US suffrage movement, many historians think it would have taken even longer for women to secure equality. In fact, the only reason the women’s movement in the US obtained suffrage in the first half of the 20th century was that it sold out the anti-war effort in exchange for the right to vote: by backing Wilson’s push to enter WWI, the women’s movement led by Carrie Chapman left its anti-war platform and helped push America into war so that Wilson could have a chance to promote his League of Nations (Van Voris). In exchange, the 19th Amendment was ratified and signed into law in 1920. What that rather ugly double-cross in the history of the women’s movement in the US shows is that militancy has never had the same character in the US as it has had in the UK. The famous film Mary Poppins features one of the most militant feminists in all of children’s media, but it is worthwhile to note that she was British—not American.
However, it should be noted that today the UK does not rank among the most gender-neutral nations within the industrialized world, however. As noted by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), the UK lacks a written constitution to enshrine equal rights under the law. Similarly, in the US, there was a failure to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, but since the US does have a written constitution, there may be some hope at a future, later date, to ensure that such equality is codified within the law. The US is also a federalist system, however, and laws protecting women’s equality may vary widely between the states, although officially, discrimination against gender and pregnancy status is prohibited under the law—in other words, gender is a protected category. Although it lacks a formal constitution, the UK did pass in 2010 an Equality Act, which prohibited unequal treatment based upon gender, consolidating previous anti-discrimination laws, and which was passed with the intention of “helping to achieve equal opportunities in the workplace and wider society” in a more active manner than…
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…points out that there is a leisure imbalance between men and women that indicates the continued inequality between the sexes. However, as Codina and Pestana note, there are time differences in the way men and women experience leisure and in the way they think about the past, present and future. As a result, men and women tend to require different amounts of leisure to maintain a healthy frame of mind. Thus, Codina and Pestana argue that women actually need less leisure time than men because women tend to get more out of a little leisure time than men get out of a lot of leisure time. In other words, women are generally more efficient in the way they use their leisure time than men are, which allows them to be comfortable with less leisure time. Even if they had more time to allocate towards “leisure” activities it would likely not be allocated in the same way men allocate time to leisure. What all this indicates is that the gender leisure gap is really just an expression of the much wider overall gender gap in particular—i.e., that men and women really are different psychologically, emotionally, physically and socially. Codina and Pestana found that “men have more leisure time, but women have a more positive leisure experience and time perspectives than men” (2513). Essentially, they noted that men require more leisure time because they do not have the capabilities that women have to use it efficiently for rejuvenation. Codina and Pestana concluded that “women enjoy themselves more with less available leisure time and are more positive with regard to time orientations” (2513). Men, on the other hand, tend to need more time for leisure because they are biologically and cognitively wired differently.
In terms of politics, the character of the women’s movement and transparency, the UK has certainly outstripped the US when it comes to making advances in addressing the gender equality issue. The UK has had more female leaders in the highest positions than the US. But the US is built differently and is a different kind of nation in terms of size and structure. The fact that the US has come close to electing a female leader for president is in itself significant. However, the two nations are similar in the fact that people on both sides of the Atlantic still question the gender issue. There is still…
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