Google feminist influencers and you are met with listicles from the likes of Global Citizen, The Culture Trip, Evening Standard and Elle – but who decides what criteria makes for a feminist influencer?
After reading Not Dressed as Lamb’s blog post on how much to charge for sponsored content, a sentence struck me and it dawned on me that earning money, decent and fair money, from your own blog or social media account might be enough to count as feminist action.
This is the sentence that got my thinking: “We really need to do SOMETHING to make women in this industry sit up and realise that they’re worth more than what they’re currently being paid. Too many women are asking for PITIFULLY low fees for what they’re doing for brands.”
[NB: This article is discussing female bloggers/influencers/content creators (whatever you want to call it/us/them). Women not only make up the majority of this new and innovative workforce, but women carved it out in the first place. Before you @ me, asking “what about male bloggers” and accusing me of sexism, let me say this: working men who are paid fairly, whether self-employed or otherwise, is not new or ground-breaking, but it is for women.]
I am going to talk you through three things, the history of women in work, the gender pay gap and the (hopefully) unconscious bias that exists, before explaining why I think this makes influencers earning fair money for their work feminism in action.
- The history of women in work
Up to the early 1900s, women had little education in comparison to their male age mates and only unmarried women worked. The number of married women in the workforce grew after the First World War and exploded after the second, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that women began flooding into colleges and universities and began to enter industries like medicine and law. Many believe this increase is due to the availability of birth control, which became permitted for women even after marriage (previously they needed their husband’s permission).
In 2020 women in the UK can celebrate 50 years since the Equal Pay Act (the USA was seven years prior), but can we celebrate equal pay? The very existence of the phrase ‘gender pay gap’ (and the prolific research and articles that support it) prove that we can’t (more on that below).
It was another five years before the Sex Discrimination Act (which also included bias against marital status). In 2006 it became the Equality Act, which was amended in 2010, now encompassing age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
- Gender Pay Gap in 2019
This year all organisations with more than 250 employees had to publish their gender pay gap. This data can be downloaded here.
Of the 9,961 companies which had filed as the deadline approached on April 4, 7,755 paid male employees more than female staff based on median hourly pay.
More than one quarter paid female staff 20 per cent less than men, while just 1.5 per cent pay male employees 20 per cent less than their female staff.
Remember this data is looking at employees within companies, it is not comparing industries with different pay scales, so this information is pretty on-the-nose.
If you want to talk about the fact women are more likely to be in low-paid work as an explanation of why women are paid less (this does not negate the data above), we need to talk about why that probability is inherently tied up with sexism as well.
Women make the babies and are more likely to take time off to look after them, which makes career progression harder. It also means they are more likely to take jobs that are part-time or flexible.
Despite laws protecting pregnancy and regulating maternity leave, the Women and Equalities Committee stated that 54,000 expectant and new mothers had been forced to leave their jobs in 2016, a figure which had DOUBLED from 2005. So things are actually getting worse for pregnant women and new mums in the workplace.
Outside of personal choices and needs, more women are in low paid roles, but those roles tend to be stereotypically female industries, such as jobs within care. The fact that these are amongst the lowest paid jobs in the UK merely demonstrates that society has and continues to undervalue women and the work they do.
On an anecdotal note, friends of mine in industries such as this have noted that when men enter ‘female dominated industries’ they are more likely to be promoted and therefore paid more.
- Today’s playing field
In 2018, according to the World Bank there are 104 economies with labour laws that restrict both jobs women can undertake, as well as when and where they are allowed to work. The employment choices of approximately 2.7 billion women around the world are affected, i.e. restricted, by this.
Here in the UK rules and regulations don’t combat the root problem of value and worth.
A 2017 study by the British Psychological Society’s DOP (Division of Occupational Psychology) revealed that women were twice as likely to underrate their own performance. Women rated men’s performance the same as men rated themselves, so better than their own, while men rated women’s performance even lower than women had rated themselves.
Why earning decent money makes you a feminist influencer
All things considered, earning decent money in any field is kind of feminist action because it is usually women killing it in male-dominated, high paying industries. So, let’s get back to blogging and social media influencing/creation…
First of all, 100 years ago women barely worked and now we have created a brand new industry that men have joined too? How do you think an adult woman would have reacted to the idea of this 100, 50 or even just 20 years ago? History is pitted against us, and yet we did it.
Yet, in an industry we created, we have to fight to be taken seriously by society and fight to be paid fairly for both our time and our work. We started this and so we should be dictating our worth, regardless of your budget restrictions (not my problem) and void of our own innate and self-destructive sexism.
Across the blogging industry women are undervaluing themselves and accepting low paid – or unpaid – work as a blogger or creator. That is why when I see women getting paid fairly, or more than fairly, I am grateful that they are setting an example I can both adhere and inspire to.
It may not be outright activism, but it is definitely feminist action.
If you’ve made it to the end you might be interested in my writing on the #MeToo movement…