French women down tools to mark gaping gender pay gap


A feminist group urged French women to leave work at 4.34 p.m. on Monday to highlight the pay gap between men and women's average hourly wage which, at 15.1% in 2010, means a woman will work 38.2 days more than a man for the same salary.

This article is freely available. Check out our subscription offers. Subscribe

It seems an insignificant time: 16:34 on Monday November 7th. and yet, for women across France, it has huge importance: it is the moment they effectively stop being paid for 2016, thanks to the gender pay gap, reports BBC News.

And this year, many were determined not to let it go unnoticed.

On Monday, French women were urged to quietly pack their bags and walk out of their offices at the appointed time to unite in their call for equal pay.

In France, the gap between men and women's average hourly wage was 15.1% in 2010, which, feminist group Les Glorieuses calculated, means a woman will work 38.2 days more than a man for the same salary. And that, they say, is not on.

Rebecca Amsellem, founder of Les Glorieuses, which launched the campaign, told the BBC: "To be really honest, I knew there was a huge difference between the pay - but I thought the difference would maybe be 10 working days, not a month-and-a-half."

Ms Amsellem had been inspired to do the maths after reading how Iceland, a country considered a world leader in gender equality, still has a pay gap of 14%.

For the last 11 years, women in Iceland have been walking out on October 24th at the time they should leave every day if they were to be paid the same hourly-rate as their male counterparts.

In that period in the Nordic country, the time has moved from 14:08 to 14:38.

If the pace continues, it will only take another 52 years for them to be able to leave at the same time as men - an unacceptable length of time, according to Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour.

He told Iceland's national broadcaster: "No-one puts up with waiting 50 years to reach a goal. It doesn't matter whether it's a gender pay gap or any other pay gap.

"It's just unacceptable to say we'll correct this in 50 years. That's a lifetime."

In France, it appears a parallel sense of injustice has inspired activists to adopt the symbolism of Iceland's precisely timed protests.

More than 10,000 women have indicated their interest in joining the movement on Facebook, and the hashtag "7novembre1634" has been trending in France, with hundreds sharing cartoons and memes highlighting the issue. Others write just one word: "Egalite."

The movement even has the backing of two government ministers, and has landed on the front page of a French national newspaper, Liberation.

"Support for the #7novembre16h34 movement: the struggle for equal pay must be by the whole of society," tweeted education minister Najat Belkacem. "Do not wait for 2186!"

But France is far from the worst offender in Europe when it comes to the gender pay gap.

Read more of this report from BBC News.

Extend your reading on Mediapart Unlimited access to the Journal free contribution in the Club Subscribe