A Brief History Of Equal Pay For Men And Women

  • Matt Scott
  • Thursday, August 1st, 2019

Women have for a long been paid less than men for doing the same job. The struggle for equal pay has been dated back to the late 19th century. This is contrary to the widespread belief that it started in the 1960s.

Women during World War 1 took on men jobs while men were deployed into the armed forces. They raised issues through strikes when they realized that they were paid lower wages for the same work that men did. In 1918, bus conductors and women trams went on strike leading to a bonus settlement to match the men’s pay.

The 1920s and 30s saw the UK state policy reflect on lower wages for women. Women workers fought against these injustices. Women’s suffrage, trade unions and women’s groups tried mobilising women to demand equal pay. They also demanded equal unemployment benefit.

The issue of equal pay was also raised in World War 2. It gradually became an increasingly articulated demand. Women groups and trade unions were on the forefront pushing for this agenda from the 1950s.

Equal pay hit newspaper headlines in 1968. Women sewing machinists went on strike over a regrading demand. This was at Ford’s Dagenham Factory. They were at this time already being paid less than men. The regrading was intended to downgrade them to unskilled workers. They returned to work 3 weeks later with a 92 per cent increment of what men were paid.

Their actions contributed largely to the campaign for equal pay. In 1970, the Equal Pay Act was passed. This act stated that men and women were entitled to equal pay and employment terms. The Equal Pay Act’s implementation started in January 1976.

The Equal Pay Act highlighted the causes of unequal pay. It cited that women’s skills were often undervalued. It also pointed a finger on job segregation as another cause for unequal pay.

This Act saw employers regrade jobs to evade equal pay and justify unequal wages that were paid to men and women for the same job. Job titles were changed to help in evasion. For instance, a personal assistant would be regraded to a typist.

Progress was made thereby strengthening the Equal Pay Act. New laws were enacted to boost the first equal pay legislation. Trade unions made tremendous strides towards championing for equal pay.

The Sex Discrimination Act was passed and enacted in 1975. It made it illegal for women to be discriminated when it comes to employment, education or training. This Act empowered women to be able to hold an account in one’s own names. They could also apply for loans or credit cards.

The Equality Act of 2010 provides for equal pay now. It illegalizes the harassment or bullying of women within the workplace. This law entitles both men and women to the same pay and conditions for the same job done.

From the 19th century to date, strides have been made to ensure that equal pay is made for the same work for both men and women. Women groups, trade unions and political parties have been able to champion for this. However, much more is needed to tighten the gender pay gap.