By Emma McClelland - 08 March 2021
An old proverb often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt said that “a woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”. The sentiment rings true at the Work Rights Centre. Every week our team sees women who have to show their strength to cut through systemic inequalities and societal misconceptions. Migrant women in particular take the brunt.
A recent International Labour Organization (ILO) report revealed that migrant women bear a “double wage penalty”. Not only do women earn less than men across the spectrum, with the average gender pay gap at 16% in industrialised countries. They also earn less as migrants. The average pay gap between male nationals (the highest earners) and migrant women (the lowest) is estimated at nearly 21% per hour.
Every day, we see these inequalities reproduced. Among our beneficiaries, women are more likely to be unemployed.
Even when they are economically active, they are far more likely to earn less. On average, women earned £1,330 a month - a whole 27% less than men’s wages of £1,810, even though they were better educated, spoke better English, and were more likely to have a CV.
Our advisers work with women to help them overcome. Together they find hope, humour, and that proverbial strength in hot water. In aid of International Women’s Day, our team shared their thoughts on some of these challenges, along with the ways in which they work to level the playing field for women.
Dr Dora-Olivia Vicol, director of the Work Rights Centre
“Women face professional inequalities all the time, from society's preconceptions around women in STEM subjects, to later disparities in pay and unwanted advances. This is why I’m so proud that, every week, our advisers help women stand up to employers who chip away at their mobility.
I stand with women who know no borders.”
Raluca Enescu, service provision and evaluation manager, Manchester
“Women have to challenge so many things: others' expectations of them - condescension and sexism. Sometimes, their own deeply-ingrained self-doubt. The pressure to do everything at once and be perfect at everything, but also to be modest, not stand out, not ask for too much.
“There is a lot of power in telling someone: ‘Hey, you are valuable. You have rights in the workplace. You have skills and achievements that you can use in your next job’. This is what informs my approach to advising all my clients in workers' rights and employability advice.
I stand with women who refuse to settle for what society tells them to.”
Bethany Birdsall, service provision team, London
“The proportion of people in low-wage jobs in the UK are majority women. Women have to challenge consistently being denied a living wage. Employers and government representatives make it near impossible to challenge this at a macro level - but at a micro level we help them challenge it by providing the tools to progress within work - moving into better paid jobs and gaining skills along the way.
“I stand with women who are forced into a cycle of low-wage work.”
Andrei Savitski, service provision team, London
“Women have to always challenge their right to both motherhood and professional aspirations. As service providers, we help women fight the forces that limit their opportunities in the workplace and their careers.
I stand with women who persevere against all odds.”
Ana-Maria Cirstea, service provision team, London
“In everyday life, women have to challenge expectations around their behaviour, their career, and their bodies. In their roles as mothers, workers, or citizens, women stand up to fight barriers and make the world a fairer place.
“My role at WoRC helps challenge expectations about what kind of work women can and should do, and supports women to access fairer and better paid employment.
“I stand with all women, seeking to understand each other and grow together.”
Lora Tabakova, service provision manager, London
“Prejudices and stereotypes towards migrant women are often reinforced by media outlets and social perceptions, which inevitably reflects on the multifaceted employment injustices migrant women are more likely to face.
I stand with women who fight for justice so that they and others can create a better future for themselves and their community."
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