Standing up for Equality

I’m still struggling to find a secure job in the sustainability sector two and a half years since completing a PhD and can’t help but wonder how much the fact that I’m a woman in her early thirties contributes to that. I’ve been meaning to write about inequality for a while but it’s seems to be one of the topics no one really wants to talk about. It’s an issue easily brushed off as negligible; employers are not allowed to discriminate against women. But why, then, does inequality still seem to be an issue?

Writing about this publicly is not easy for me, which is one of the reasons I haven’t written about it yet. But I want to speak up as I believe that it’s a problem that’s real and that my struggles finding a job aren’t just down to the fact that I’m not good enough, because that’s what I’m always told when I’m rejected from a job: Sorry, on this occasion we chose a candidate with more experience.

Last year at this time, I was still unemployed and had been so for 1.5 years. As the number of days I had been unemployed increased, so did the days I felt down and sad and didn’t want to speak to anyone. I’ve been employed for nearly eight month now and my mental wellbeing has massively improved. I strongly believe that having a purpose in life contributes to people’s happiness and a job fulfils that for many (in addition to financial security and stability). My current contract ends soon and so far I’ve been unsuccessful in finding a new job. I’m reminded of how I felt last year as those feelings come up again. There’s days I’m sad and days I’m hopeful. There’s days I think I’m not good enough and days I think that it can’t all be my fault because it would be too heavy of a burden to carry.

I just read an article in the New Scientist about introducing a four-day working week, in which both the fact that unemployment is not good for our physical and mental health and the topic of inequality was brought up. There’s evidence that reducing working hours would make our societies more equal as unpaid work, including housework and looking after children, could be split more equally between men and women. I can definitely see this as being an opportunity for women.

I was brought up with the idea that going to university would increase my chances of getting a better paid job, but especially my mum also wanted to make sure that I could have a career as a woman. When I first went to university, I remember that we, as students talked about the representation of girls in the different courses that were taught in the geoscience department. I was proud of being a woman because we didn’t even make up 50 percent in some courses. Little did I know that things would only get tougher.

Looking for a job has made me realise that inequality ultimately comes down to inequal opportunities. Reasons behind the lack of female CEOs are not only the fact that their priorities might change as they have children and subsequently lack behind their male counterparts, but also the lack of opportunities in having both: a career and a family.

Equality is now on the agenda for many organisations and businesses and International Women’s Day seems to become ever more prominent. Whilst it’s great that those who’ve made it speak up for those who haven’t, we still have a long way to go.

Ultimately I don’t know how much discrimination contributes to my struggles finding a job, but no matter how much it is, I’ve learned one thing: people can have a big impact on your life with what they do and say. It’s taught me to be supportive of people’s aspirations and dreams. I don’t apply for a job because I don’t want to do it. Instead of asking me why I want to do the job, ask me how this job could help me achieve my aspirations.

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