Thousands of French women strike for equal pay

Thousands of women in France walked out of work early on November 7 to protest the pay gap between men and women.

Women began their strike at 4:34 p.m.

The time that the walkout began is symbolic.

According to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, women in France are paid 15.1 percent less than men for comparable work. To look at another way, for 15.1 percent of the year, women are working without getting paid. That period without pay begins at 4:34 p.m. on November 7 and ends at Midnight on January 1, 2017.

“As of 4:34p.m. [and 7 seconds] on November 7, women will be working ‘for free’, reads a statement on the website of  Les Glorieuses, the feminist newsletter that called for the strike. “We call on women, men, unions and feminist organizations to join the movement. . . and to hold events and protests in order to make income inequality a central political issue. By tackling this subject, we’re showing that the gender pay gap is not just a ‘woman’s issue’.”

The strike call was heeded by a larger number than its organizers expected.

“I’m extremely happy that a lot of people took up this issue and made time to show their support,” said Rebecca Amsellem co-founder of Les Glorieuses to the Guardian. “It’s good that we are thinking about women’s rights outside of Women’s Day.”

Amsellem added that she didn’t want to wait for 170 years to equalize pay between men and women.

Amsellem’s comment about waiting 170 years to achieve pay equality is a reference to a recent report by the World Economic Forum that estimates that at the current rate of progress, it will take 170 years to close the pay gap between men and women.

The report entitled Global Gender Gap Report is produced annually and attempts to measure the global progress toward eliminating gender inequality in four areas: educational attainment, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

According to the Forum, “progress towards (pay) parity. . .  has slowed dramatically with the (pay) gap – which stands at 59 percent (worldwide) – now larger than at any point since 2008.”

The French strike for pay parity was inspired by a similar action that took place in Iceland on October 24.

On that day at 2:38 p.m., women in Iceland walked off the job because the 14 percent pay gap in Iceland means that from 2:38 p.m. until the end of the work day, women are working without getting paid.

Women in Iceland have been taking this action for 11 years now.

That action has its roots in a strike that took place 41 years ago.

On October 24, 1975, 90 percent of the women in Iceland took part in a strike to show the importance of the work they do.

Five years later Vigdis Finnbogadottir was elected Iceland’s and Europe’s first female president.

Finnbogadottir told the BBC that she would not have been president if it hadn’t been for the strike that took place five years earlier.

Alix Heuer, another co-founder of Les Glorieusestold France 24 that she wanted the November 7 strike in France to be another watershed moment for equal rights and that more actions will be taken make equal pay a priority on the country’s political.

Heuer has been gathering signatures on an online petition, and told France 24 that, “Our goal is to take the petition to Laurence Rossignol [French minister of families, children and women’s rights] by Monday at the latest to demand equal pay.”

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