Gender Equalities at 50
A new project traces the first comprehensive interdisciplinary history of the Equal Pay Act 1970 and Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (now integrated for GB in the Equality Act 2010) across the UK.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project will examine the period from 1964, when equal pay was first included as a party manifesto commitment, up to 2020, drawing on methods and sources in legal and gender history. It is also the first research to examine the history of responses to workplace sexual harassment (judged to be a form of discrimination in 1986) up to and included #MeToo.
Today, Monday 7 June 2021, on the anniversary of the Ford Dagenham strike, action considered to be a turning point in the fight for equal pay in the UK, the project is launching its online presence at www.genderequalitiesat50.ed.ac.uk.
Representing the University of Edinburgh on the project are Principal Investigator, Professor Louise Jackson from the School of History, Classics & Archaeology, and Co-investigator Professor Fiona Mackay from the School of Social & Political Science and Research Fellow, Dr Ashlee Christoffersen. Co-investigators from the partner institutions are Professor Colm O’Cinneide (UCL Faculty of Laws) and Professor Hazel Conley (University of the West of England).
Professor Louise Jackson, from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, explained the rationale for conducting this research at the present time, “We thought this project was absolutely crucial – and crucial to do now – because of the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which was marked in 2020. We became very aware that despite the fact that these forms of legislation have been in place for 50 years, very little feels as though it has changed; the challenges associated with getting equal pay still hit the headlines on a regular basis. It raised the issue for us as to why, despite the passage of 50 years, there still seems to be such significant work to do.”
The team was clear that the research needed to be both interdisciplinary and intersectional. Professor Jackson explained, “It’s really important to emphasise the interdisciplinary nature of the project because although the whole issue of workplace gender equality has been looked at almost nonstop since the legislation came into being, it’s tended to be looked at in discipline silos. It’s been looked at from an industrial relations perspective, it’s been looked at from quite narrow legal perspectives, it’s been looked at by policy experts – but these disciplines have tended not to encounter each other.”
Professor Fiona MacKay, Professor of Politics in SSPS, and Director of GenderEd, said, “The very act of recording, of taking testimony and sharing stories of lived experience of these laws, the developments in policy and practice are a really great contribution in and of themselves. We’ll be including voices that have been side-lined or seldom heard, and I think that what it will create is both a sense of the bigger picture, and also an archive and resource.”
The project blog will be updated regularly with written content, as well as podcasts from the research team, advisory group and other external contributors, and later with reflections on research progress and insights from oral history interviews.
Read more on the project at New research project on ‘Gender Equalities at Work’ funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council