It’s just a coincidence that I watched the movie Made in Dagenham today, March 8, International Women’s Day. The movie is “a dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination.” It is based on a real-situation, which led to the creation of the Equal Pay Act 1970 in the United Kingdom, which eventually shaped labor laws across industrialized nations. For the first time, it aimed to prohibit inequality of treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. The movie is a great story speckled with humor, about the relationship between the low income and high income classes, courage, and determination of smart working class (this reminds me about the book Scarcity by Sendhil Mullainathan about the role and impact of the scarcity mindset among poor. I’ll write more on this topic on another day).
As we look at today’s headlines, it is bewildering to think about the level of progress since the milestone act. The book Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers’ Rights at Wal-Mart states that women make up more than 55 percent of the Wal-Mart’s hourly workforce and account for 30 percent of the corporation’s managers are women. Al Jazeera USA headlined, International Women’s Day: Protests urge social reform, equal pay. While today’s protests focused on multiple issues from access to education and end to sexual abuse, equal pay was the most prominent focus. Have efforts stalled since the 1960’s or have we failed to keep up with the issues? Yes and Yes. As President Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union speech, “– today women make up about half our workforce. But they still make — seven cents for every dollar man — That is wrong then and 2014. It’s an embarrassment.” I agree.