Equal Pay Day 2019 is today, which means women effectively stop earning relative to men from now until the end of the year. The most recent statistics from the ONS’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) show that the mean gap for full-time workers is 13.1%, so at this rate, it will take 60 years to eradicate it.
A part of why this has persisted is that there’s still a taboo around talking about money; when there’s no visibility, it’s hard for women to know what to ask for. This is where [link url=”https://preciousstarspads.wixsite.com/timeequalsmoney” no follow=”true”]Time = Money[/link] comes in. Gabby Edlin (CEO & Founder of Bloody Good Period) and Seyi Akiwowo (Founder of Glitch) are both activists, running their own organisations, who found themselves frequently getting together to complain about being asked to appear on panels, run workshops or provide expertise all for free. Telling GLAMOUR UK: “Within the feminist community there has long been a conversation about companies expecting us to do the work, which ultimately provides both financial and cultural capital for the company, just purely out of ‘love’, or that dreaded word, ‘exposure’. There’s some bizarre societal belief that because we do work which is for societal good, that we shouldn’t do it for money. It’s either that, or companies simply don’t respect women’s time.”
On the evening of October 21st 2019, I joined a WhatsApp group that many of my peers were talking about on Instagram, and unknowingly joined a revolution. Since then, the group has amassed a steady stream of women (and non-binary people) talking about the times they’ve been unfairly paid or asked to work for free, and has become a hub of advice for all things money. Time = Money now has 100 members on the FB and WhatsApp group – it’s a collective of some of London’s most well known and hardworking activists, freelancers and creatives.
Gabby and Seyi’s frustrations were validated when the WhatsApp group reached almost 100 people in less than 24 hours: “Inspired by the work of Reni Eddo-Lodge (check out her website FAQs!), Otegha Uwagba and Alex Holder, members of the Facebook group are sharing self-penned email scripts about how to ask for money, advice on how to set your rates as well as ‘exposure’ horror stories (yes, we do name and shame.)
Ultimately, the more we refuse to accept the patriarchy’s divide and conquer strategy – i.e. if we’re too embarrassed to ask for our worth, then the gender pay gap stays firmly where it is – the better we all do.”
Bryony Farmer, who runs a small business selling reusable menstrual products, told me more about the group: “As soon as I saw what the group was about I was like “YASSS, finally somebody is addressing this crap!”. I was instantly on board with creating change around how women get hired, which was why I quickly threw together the Time = Money website that anyone can link to if they felt they weren’t being treated fairly. I’m pleased to say it’s already started to work for some of the group members.”
Bryony’s experiences are all too familiar: “The most extreme example I’ve encountered was being asked by a company to help them design a product…for free. Their argument was that it would be great ‘exposure’, but as I pointed out to them they were the ones who contacted me, so clearly I didn’t need it. I think we need a massive shift in how we value speakers, as it’s often expected they will just speak for free. I would love to see it become more commonplace for companies contacting women for their expertise, whatever it may be, to list in their initial email what the fees are. This would make it much easier for us to know when there’s room to negotiate, without taking advantage of the fact that women are more likely to work for free.”
It’s common knowledge that women are paid less than men, but just having that information shoved down our throats doesn’t actually *do* anything. Large companies might be changing their ways but it’s too slow, and women aren’t armed with the knowledge they need in the present. How do we know how much we should be charging for our services, or how much others are charging for theirs, when money is seen as such a taboo subject? Time = Money is changing this by connecting a large number of us together, and adding an element of visibility that has been seriously lacking.
This Equal Pay Day I think it’s important for women to make a conscious decision to discuss money more, and start uncomfortable conversations with their friends, colleagues, and partners – try it, you might end up getting paid better.