Last Friday, ‘the Equality Act’ came into force. It draws together numerous anti-discrimination laws and gives hope for clearer and more straightforward discrimination rules.

Last Friday also marked the release of Made in Dagenham a film which celebrates the actions of a small group of women whose protests about difference of pay between men and women lead indirectly to the passing of the ‘Equal Pay Act’ 40 years ago.

In light of these events, we looked at British attitudes to gender equality. Our survey asked 1,796 British adults their perceptions of the treatment of women in society; whether women have equal job opportunities to men; and their attitudes towards a ‘gender pay audit’.

Perceptions between the genders differ

Our survey, which was conducted from 30th September to 1st October, looks at public perceptions of equality of job opportunity and whether the public is satisfied or not with women’s treatment in society.

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Respondents were asked Do you think women in Britain have equal job opportunities with men, or not?

Overall the majority of British people do not think that women have equal job opportunities. Only 38% think that women do have equal opportunities compared with 53% who think they do not.

Interestingly, a clear disparity in perception emerges by gender. The majority of men think that women DO have equal job opportunities (51% think they do whereas 43% think they do not) whereas the majority of women think that women DO NOT have equal opportunities (25% think they do 63% think they don’t).

This difference in gender perception is also reflected when we asked respondents Generally speaking are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way women are treated in society?

Although the majority of people are generally satisfied, 17% of men are very satisfied with women’s treatment compared with only 5% of women. A quarter of British women are dissatisfied with their gender’s treatment in society.

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Support for Gender Pay Audit

One aspect of The Equality Act which is still under review is the introduction of a ‘Gender Pay Audit.’ Our latest results should give credence to Government decision makers, with wide public support for such a policy.

A ‘Gender Pay Audit’ would force companies who are thought to be discriminatory to publish what they pay men and women therefore making it easier for employees to compare salaries. Currently it is felt that it is very difficult for women to find out if they are being paid differently to men. Furthermore, many women are unaware that they are being discriminated against in the first place due to lack of available information.

We found that three quarters of British people (76%) support such a policy. Only 11% oppose it.

A strong level of support for such a policy remained consistent across both genders and across party lines.

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Take action

The 'Equality Act' offers hope to those suffering discrimination in the workplace. It covers not only gender discrimination but also that based on race, disability and marriage.

With the latest figures showing the average pay gap between men and women in Europe at 18%, the UK’s dismal 21.4% gap shows that we have a way to go before the intentions of the Dagenham plant workers of ‘equal pay for equal work’ are achieved for all women in the country.

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