I love tennis. But this week one of my favourite tennis players let me down off the court and I wonder if I will ever love him again on the court.
I am referring of course to his comments on pay. He allegedly said that men should receive more prize money than women, because more people watch men play. His comments have caused huge controversy, especially with high-profile players Serena Williams and Andy Murray who have spoken out against his comments. Williams, the women's number one, said the Serb was "entitled to his opinion" but wondered what he would say to his daughter. She said: "If I had two kids, I would never tell my son or my daughter that one deserves more because of their sex".
An equal prize money ruling has been in place in the sport since 2007 in four major tennis tournaments - Australia, US, France and England. Novak is not the first to cause controversy when it comes to gender pay and equality and he is not the first to feel the fury of Serena Williams. Comments made by the CEO of Indian Wells Tennis Garden, suggested that female tennis players are lucky to 'ride on the tailcoats of men' in the sport. Serena hit back, expressing that these views are 'offensive' to women.
Debates on equality have been gaining momentum in recent years, sparking a number of people, including a number of celebrities, to take action and support the movement. And we are not just talking about women standing up for women. Men are also declaring themselves 'feminists'. Last week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that gender equality is a central part of his agenda — and if it’s to succeed, men need to chip in more: “It can’t just be women who are feminists. We men have to be feminists too,” he said. “And it’s about time we said that more often.” And guess what? Half of his cabinet are women.
A notable celebrity ambassador for gender equality (and a favourite with young women in particular) is Emma Watson who supports the #HeForShe campaign, established to create a gender equal world by recognising the male role in achieving gender equality. Their mission is simple. Gender equality. It is not complicated, but it is hard.
And here is why. Sometimes it is the small unseen, unheard or ignored actions that perpetuate gender inequality. The recent decision not to abolish the tax on tampons and other necessary sanitary products for women is a prime example. The tax was deemed unfair by many, suggesting that tampons were considered a luxury, non-essential item. As if WE actually have a choice on menstruation. Over 300,000 people signed an online petition, dubbing the tax ‘outdated’ and ‘overtly sexist’. Even the likes of President Obama didn’t understand the tax, stating that the law was probably passed because men MADE the laws. This week David Cameron has confirmed the Government will abolish the so-called tampon tax. One step forward...
But in a bid to try and reach equality I am wondering if some people are taking it a step too far - or pushing us one step back. I read last week that one company are proposing to introduce a ‘period policy’ for female members of staff who are struggling with symptoms caused by menstruation. Whilst I sympathise with the many women who struggle with excruciating symptoms that come with their monthly cycle, I must agree with the objection – women have been dealing with these problems for centuries without hassle or disruption to every day life. If we are to drive forward and close the gap in gender inequality, then I feel that this policy would be a step in the wrong direction. You can’t ask for equal rights with men on one hand, to expect specialist treatment for being a woman on the other.
As an organisation we are really interested in closing the gap on equality. A report from earlier this year revealed that in the UK women still earn on average 20% less than men. This really isn't acceptable. In a bid to try and force the agenda, politicians are now looking at ways to force businesses to act including making large businesses publish their average annual figures for their male and female employees, including bonuses, in order to expose any inequalities and force transparency.
If you know a little about us you will know that we are a campaign company and we love to create inspiring, thought provoking and actionable campaigns. One of our favourite from last year was the #LikeaGirl campaign. Always needed a way to appeal to a next generation of consumers in the face of growing competition from rivals that were gaining traction with Millennial girls via social media. The award winning response was the Always #LikeAGirl campaign, that turned a phrase that had become an insult into an empowering message.
In the latest strand to the campaign, Always are challenging the stereotyping of emojis used on mobile phones. These emojis feature males in job roles such as policemen or builders or playing sports such as basketball, running or surfing. The female equivalents are stereotyped as always being dressed in pink and having haircuts and manicures. Who would have thought these little icons were reinforcing outdated gender roles.
It is a fact that inequality between men and women still exists. It is what we do now that matters. As people we need to challenge what feels unfair. I loved hearing about how many women have overcome gender inequality on International Women's Day. Great inspirational stories. But it would be really great if one day we didn't have a day for women. Because that would mean the world was a fairer place.
What are your thoughts?