International Women’s Day Statement 2023

This year International Women’s Day falls amid a sustained period of industrial action taken by University and College Union members to defend our rights to secure contracts, equality at work, fair workloads, fair pay and a liveable pension. All of these issues have a particular and pronounced effect on women and other marginalised genders, and intersect with other structures of oppression.

Across the country, women are bearing the brunt of the ongoing cost of living crisis; women are already losing thousands from their pensions because of time out for caring responsibilities; workloads are debilitating for women who are often the ones who are taking on more of the domestic load at home; and women on precarious contracts are treated as ‘non-citizens of the academy’, are undervalued in terms of status, rights, entitlements, pay and decision-making power, and cannot plan on having children.  

At Newcastle University, the mean gender pay gap is 17.8%, nearly 3% above the national average for universities. Women in academic roles are paid 11.4% less than men, women in professional services roles are paid 8.2% less than men, women receive 76.5% less in bonus payments than men, and women occupy 67.5% of the lowest paid jobs. Increasingly, women at Newcastle University are working longer hours than men, often working longer than their expected hours, and finding their workload unmanageable.

In this context, International Women’s Day is an opportunity for the University to gloss over these material and structural inequalities, perform equality work, and benefit from a reputation as a progressive institution. Much of the hard work of creating marketable International Women’s Day events and other EDI labour falls on the shoulders of women and other minoritised colleagues and is often unpaid.

In solidarity with striking UCU members, this year NU Women are refusing to participate in providing Newcastle University with marketing material to obfuscate the material realities of women working within the institution. Instead, we are choosing to draw attention to it with our pay gap posters. We invite you to keep these figures in mind when interacting with the University’s celebrations of womens’ work and achievements across the institution. We invite you to consider how these achievements are made within unsupportive environments, how women’s labour is re-appropriated into a narrative of a feminist institution, and how much Newcastle University actually values this work if it refuses to pay for it equally.

We wish all Newcastle women a happy International Women’s Day and hope you are able to find time to rest, celebrate, organise, and observe the day in your own way.

Annual lecture 2020: The Gendered Division of Paid and Domestic Work Under Lockdown

With thanks to Alison Andrew and the joint work with Sarah Cattan, Monica Costa Dias, Christine Farquharson, Lucy Kraftman, Sonya Krutikova, Angus Phimister and Almudena Sevilla, the NU Women Annual Lecture last month explored ‘The Gendered Division of Paid and Domestic Work Under Lockdown’.

Alison presented survey data that illustrated how parents in England have been sharing paid and domestic work during lockdown and examined women’s careers in a post-pandemic world. This data offered important insights not only into employment relations in the UK but to the potential solutions that could be used to reduce the division and encourage gender equality.

Alison outlined that women earned 44% less than men in 2019. Even when considering women from a background of higher education the earning gap only improved to 46%, leaving a staggeringly large amount of gender inequality when it came to the questions of paid work and domestic labour before the pandemic. Even when looking at data from women taking time off around childbirth, the short term breaks or part time employment evidenced “scarring” effects on women’s career progression.

Outlining the statistical foundations of gender inequality before going into the pandemic, Alison’s data created expectations that COVID-19 would impact both sides of the labour market and that this might affect men and women differently. This played out in many places of work (especially leisure and hospitality) were forced to close or scale back this meant that there were changes in demand and treatment of employees such as the furlough scheme.

However, it was shown through the lecture that these losses were not evenly distributed because women, especially women in BAME communities, were over or underrepresented in some sectors such as the NHS. Not only did the pandemic pressure accumulate in work life but when additional need for child and older relative care became a priority, home life forced gender norms and habits to rise to the surface, encouraging work division and interruptions further.

Through Alison’s presented data, the legacy of the crisis taught us is that the solutions for sharing paid and domestic work remains open. For example, fathers’ involvement in day-to-day childcare may increase as a result of short-term changes and perhaps through changes in gender norms or attitudes of employers. Moreover, in a number of firms they have started to accommodate flexible schedules and homeworking environments. Nonetheless, the pandemic has been heterogenous in how its effected different households; in some cases, there has been a transition towards a traditional split of domestic and paid work, but there is evidence of an inverse variation too.

You can view the full lecture below: