The equality emporium

I am typing this from the BA Lounge at Heathrow Airport, waiting for the flight that will take me across the pond to Seattle-A and her boys for a glorious 10 days of ‘hanging out’.

As with all airport journeys I leave plenty of time to allow for a) North Circular and Heathrow spur traffic b) a less than fast Fast Track and c) breakfast and a spotty reading of the Financial Times. Today there was no traffic and Fast Track lived up to its name so I have plenty of time to dash off a little post.

This one is inspired by something I saw on Springwise.com yesterday and got me thinking about that equal pay question. You see this was about a pop-up shop called 76<100 where you ‘pay what you’re paid’. So if you’re a woman and you buy something in this Pittsburgh emporium, you pay only 76% of the price because that’s the gender pay gap in Pittsburgh. (Springwise reports that the plan is to expand this concept to New Orleans next where the store will be called 66<100 – you do the maths. You can find out more at http://www.lessthan100.org.)

I’m reading all sorts of things in the media about women ‘issues’ – after all the suffragettes won the right to vote here in the UK a century ago and the general theme of all of these rallying cries is that we have not come so very far. The use of the word feminist is emerging in common parlance again after years of being tarred as the ‘other F-word’ and an election would not be an election in the UK without most of the parties bandying ‘women issues’ about as part of their appeal to the swinging voter (anyone see Labour’s pink campaign bus – I mean REALLY?)

For the most part it just sounds like noise to me and while I accept that there is still a gap to bridge, I just think that there are so many of these bridges to build and for so many of us. The problems of women’s representation on Boards and equal pay – while I do acknowledge their importance – pale when I think about the things I read, that I have never been exposed to – rape, ostracision, FGM, beatings and other torments seem a much greater problem to fix. And not just for women but for all groups who are at the ‘skinny end’ in the balance of society’s power.

And then last night I read the latest post from fellow blogging friend, Travelling Penn (travellingpenn@wordpress.com). We worked together a long time ago – she has since retrained as a communicator for World Vision and travels to far-flung places to support aid efforts for the world’s poorest and most powerless. She has been posting on Facebook recently about the power of global aid efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Nepal. Anyway, in her post she shared some numbers – 60 million people facing an humanitarian crisis, 36 million of those children.

It puts the notion of equality into a different light doesn’t it?

It is an overwhelming set of numbers and my friend writes about remembering the face of each child she has helped to avoid despairing as she tots up the columns. And I thought to myself, whatever the crisis of equality – whether it’s gender, sexuality, poverty, race, religion…the list goes on – the difference we make is really person by person and moment by moment.

So when next I am admonished to ‘step up’ and ‘lean In’, I will do just that. Because while I’m just one person, so are all of the people I come into contact with each day. And with a little extra from all the ones, I have to believe that it is possible to make a difference.

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