3:34pm, 10 November. A camera pans across an office devoid of feminine presence. Four men sit amongst banks of empty desks, not speaking. The only sound is the muffled squawk of the radio.
No, it’s not the opener of a new Alfonso Cuarón blockbuster, but instead the scene being broadcast live from inside the Stylist headquarters after our mass Emerald Street exodus.
In recognition of Equal Pay Day female employees at Stylist absconded from work 18% earlier than usual to highlight the UK’s gender pay gap. From now until 1 January 2017, statistics show the average woman – in full and part time employment – is now working for free. And we’re not happy about it.
Setting our out-of-office email responses to a special #EqualPayDay missive and clearing our schedules, the Stylist team trooped out at the appointed hour and left a camera behind to make sure none of us nipped back – our walk had to match our talk.
Over 92,000 of you followed the video feed on Facebook, keeping track of the four men we abandoned and making an unlikely celebrity of Gareth, our bemused production editor.
But this day was all about women, and with backing from powerhouse organisations The Fawcett Society and The Women’s Institute we made sure to shout about it. Hashtags, profile pictures and Facebook posts all buoyed our efforts: our special Stylist logo helped turn social media pink while support flooded in from workplaces across the country.
Comic Relief, Get The Gloss, Kingston University and Portas Agency were just a few of the businesses who joined us in loudly going absent without leave. Over on Instagram, Gemma Arterton was one of several high profile women contributing to the conversation, telling followers that pay inequality was ‘not good enough!’ in a lengthy post while Mayor Sadiq Khan praised the action telling us he “[welcomed] Stylist magazine’s work to raise awareness of this important issue.”
In total, over 171,000 people engaged with our #EqualPayDay efforts online and helped the spread the call to ditch the desk nearly 1.5 hours before the standard 5pm finish.
Not everyone was on board though. Even with statistics on our side, there’s still a healthy amount of scepticism and debate surrounding the issue of equal pay.
It should be simple. Women receive 18.1% less pay than male counterparts for doing the same job. Fields traditionally considered ‘female’ are often undervalued and overworked, particularly if they’re caregiving roles.
Comments questioning and ridiculing the walkout were scattered amongst messages of solidarity, but we didn’t really expect anything else. 2016 has been a year of new challenges for women’s movements worldwide, but if anything it’s taught us that raising voices and awareness is more important than ever
The Stylist #EqualPayDay initiative won’t reimburse everyone working for free from now until 1 January 2017. It’s a start though, and it doesn’t stop here: until women in the UK have a share of the pie equal to that of the men they work alongside, we’re going to keep yelling at the top of our lungs.
Keep your ears and eyes peeled everyone… Stylist aren’t letting this one go.