Intersectionality Week: Women

Posted 22 January 2021
President of Inclusivity and Diversity, Evie, talks about the intersectionality of women and social mobility.
President of Inclusivity and Diversity, Evie, talks about the intersectionality of women and social mobility.

For intersectionality week, I want to talk about the issues that working class women, or women from low income backgrounds face. As a bit of a disclaimer, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself working class, but I have some information about some of the issues that these women face.


Period Poverty (People who have periods)

Not every woman has a period, and not everyone who has a period is a woman. But it is an issue that impacts a lot of women.

In the UK, 1 in 10 people who have periods can’t afford to buy menstrual products, while 1 in 7 have struggled to afford them, according to a representative survey of people aged 14-21 by Plan International UK.

In many cases this means that people have to use alternatives, such as toilet paper. Sometimes if people can’t find suitable alternatives, they can’t go into school. So not only can this be quite unpleasant for people if they don’t have the right sanitary products they need, but it can also impact your education.

In March 2017, Freedom4Girls found that students in the UK are missing school because of this issue. 

Plan International UK found that 49% of people who have periods have missed an entire day of school because of their period.

However, there is some positive progress happening!

Tampon Tax in UK has been removed. This is really great progress. It should have never been taxed as a luxury product because it is a necessity.

Scotland have now even made it a legal requirement for all public buildings to provide free sanitary products! This is something hopefully that we can see in England soon.


Working class women and the COVID-19 pandemic

Research has shown that working class women were most affected by lockdown in UK.

This is because there were more likely to be in less ‘safe’ jobs: 80 per cent of working-class women said they were “never” working from home across the whole of June 2020. This is much greater compared to women in more senior or higher paid professions. So it is disproportionately putting working class women in person facing and less safe jobs compared to women in more senior jobs.

Working class women have been more likely to be furloughed and are at high risk of redundancy compared to working class men, or women in more senior professions.

Key working is highest among working class women compared to other genders and other social groups. 

Working class women have also had to endure increased domestic and emotional labour at home whilst balancing work, for those working from home. For those small percentage of working class women who were able to work from home, a lot of them had to balance this with childcare responsibilities and household chores, and this had an impact on their physical and mental health. This is one of the reasons that working class women have been most impacted by the pandemic.

Hopefully you can look into this, and see how we can support working class women throughout the pandemic, and make sure they are not faced with the same pressures and responsibilities as they have been in the past.


Gender Pay Gap

The mean gender pay gap is usually calculated as an average. An organisation will add up the men’s wages and the women’s wages and divide it by the number of employees, and look at the difference between the averages.

Myth: It’s not real

This is false, and it is backed by data.

These statistics also show the differences in the gender pay gap, such as the following:

  • The gender pay gap is double among part-time worker compared to full time workers. 

  • This difference is also highest among higher earners, although this has gap has decreased over 2020.

  • Higher in England than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Myth: Women inevitably earn less because they have children.

There is some truth in this, as it suggests that there is very little pay gap under the age of about 20, and then it increases over your late 20s, 30s or 40s, when you are more likely to have children, and work part-time or go on maternity leave due to children. But it ought not to be that way, as the impact on men’s careers is not existent when they have children. However, research does show that men sometimes feel that they do not get involved with their children as much as they would like. The current system is not benefitting anyone.

Tackling this: 

  • Providing shared parental leave

  • Men spend more time with children

  • Organisations get more used to the fact that men way work flexibly/take time off to help look after children.

  •  Mitigates some of the discrimination that women face, as organisations do not merely see women as less valuable, or more of a threat in the work place due to taking maternity leave, as now men are doing the same. Currently, women can be discriminated against because an employer can choose not to employ/promote women due to perceptions that they are more likely to take maternity leave. If men are doing the same thing, hopefully this will reduce the discrimination against women, because any employee can take this time off.


Myth: Men have always been bread winners.

This isn’t true, before the industrial revolution of the mid-1800s, women were contributing a lot to manual labour. It is only really a result of the industrial revolution and Second World War that these things changed.


Why does the gender pay gap exist?

  • Discrimination when women take maternity leave or work part-time for child-care reasons.  They often struggle to get back into the job market and achieve promotions etc.

  • Women are disproportionately represented in part-time work, e.g. due to other demands.

  • Cluster effect- lots of women over-represented in service jobs, women tend to work in vocational jobs, often even if these are lower paid, e.g. Health Care Assistants, as they view these jobs as vocation. These jobs often have lower pay

  • Discrimination - women viewed as less competent or valuable for a number of reasons.




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