Gender pay gap ‘not going anywhere’, British campaigner says

Beatrix Campbell gives keynote speech to Countess Markievicz School

Beatrix Campbell giving a keynote speech to the seventh annual Countess Markievicz School in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Anthea McTeirnan

Beatrix Campbell giving a keynote speech to the seventh annual Countess Markievicz School in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Anthea McTeirnan

 

The gender pay gap is “not going anywhere” and things are getting worse as working conditions are eroded and the “precariat” grows, a British author, journalist, campaigner and playwright said.

Beatrix Campbell was giving a keynote speech to the seventh annual Countess Markievicz School in Liberty Hall in Dublin on Saturday. She has always felt that Ireland was “a very interesting society”, she said. “There is something so interesting to be engaged with a country that is having such a huge conversation with itself,” she said.

Taking her theme from her latest book The End of Equality, Ms Campbell asked delegates to think about what has happened to make inequalities grow when we has assumed they would diminish. “How do we read the paradoxes of this moment,” she asked. “What on earth has happened in the world that inequalities have grown?”

Among liberal thinkers, there is an optimistic belief that men and women are on a cultural journey toward equality, in the workplace, on the street, and in the home, yet this is not the case. And in some cases progress has even reversed, she said.

“We are in an era of neo-patriarchy and neo-liberalism,” Ms Campbell said, pointing out that the latest report from the World Economic Forum stated that the gender pay gap will take 118 years to close. She will be dead by the time that happens, she said. “The gender pay gap is not going anywhere” and things are getting worse as working conditions are eroded and the “precariat” grows, she added.

The rate of inequality between men and women is growing fastest in China, she told delegates. “Asia is the most dynamic region in the world, but the population is being masculinised. There are 170 million missing women in Asia. We are on the edge of a bomb in terms of gender, integration and economics,” she said.

Of course men do more work more in the home now – “don’t they?” she asked. “As feminists, we are wildly optimistic aren’t we?” Yet in Europe men’s participation in domestic work has only increased by one minute each day. The same applies to childcare – “one minute a day,” she said.

Never mind looking after their children, men have traditionally had a stake in war and fought as soldiers, being killed in conflicts. “Now women have a stake in war as never before,” she said, pointing to conflicts in the Middle East and Africa where women and their bodies are often the casualties of such conflict. In fact, war is often fought over the bodies of women, she said.