My first quilt was a simple presentation of the definition of feminism and misogyny. For my second quilt I want to move on to thinking about equality for women and focus on a specific issue.
After some thought I’ve decided that quilt number two will highlight the gender pay gap. For each quilt I like to do a bit of reading around the topic to help inspire my design. There’s a lot of information available online about the gender pay gap. I found a really helpful website EqualPayPortal which has lots of good information and statistics about equal pay in the UK and Europe. For a more worldwide picture the OECD has some useful data Worldwide Gender Pay Gap as well as lots of other data about Gender Equality I plan on incorporating some of the statistics into my quilt.
When thinking equal pay I considered my own experience. The Yarn with Stitches project isn’t about me so I have deliberately avoided sharing much information about myself. However, I will share a little of my personal experience. I work in a field where pay is negotiated according to national terms and conditions. When I first started work I thought the gender pay gap wasn’t something that would come up in my working life because there was a national agreement on pay that applied to everyone.
As I’ve progressed through my career and become more senior I can see that actually it is an issue. There are two main points that I’ve noticed. Firstly, the impact that having a child or being a carer has on career progression. There are many women who do progress to the top of the hierarchy and have children and caring responsibilities but there are also many who feel they have to make choices that limit their career progression and earning potential.There are also men who have had to make those choices too but from my personal experience it seems to be more commonly an issue for women.
The second issue I’ve noticed is perhaps more subtle. At the level I work at pay can be enhanced by applying for extra awards. These are nationally agreed and of course men and women can apply for them. In my experience the male colleagues I work with are much better at putting themselves forward for this extra pay and highlighting their special skills and the extra contribution they make in their job.
My female colleagues, and indeed myself, often need a bit of a push to put themselves forward. We’re not so good at blowing our own trumpet. I have discussed this with colleagues, both male and female, about why this is and I think it’s about how society expects women to behave and how we all internalise this expectation. Women often simply don’t think they’re worth it and / or don’t feel comfortable breaking the mold and demanding monetary recognition of their skills and experience. I appreciate these aren’t ground breaking observations and many before me have highlighted them but I felt it was important to share my personal experience, to highlight that they aren’t just academic theories. This happening every day now in 2017.
There aren’t any quick solutions to either of these issues. The first can begin to be addressed by truly equal parental leave and placing a higher value and recognition on the role of carers. Truly flexible working would also be part of this. The second is more challenging, it’s hard to change how society perceives women. It’s not impossible though and we can all work towards it in our own way. Yarn with stitches is one of the ways I’m working towards it.
So that’s the thinking behind the meaning of quilt number two. Design wise I’m thinking of something a bit more glitzy than quilt number one. I have some gold and silver fabric that I’d like to use for the background and some purple super chunky yarn that I will use in the embroidery.
Like quilt number one I plan on using crewel embroidery and this will be another roughly 40cm square quilt (unless I don’t have as much fabric in my stash as I think I have). I’ve chosen to be fairly straightforward in how I get the message across in these first few quilts so there will be simple statements of facts that I feel best highlight the issue of the gender pay gap and the importance of equality.
I’ll be posting more details about the design and making process over the next week or so. As with all Yarn with Stitches quilts the finished quilt will be sent free to anyone who wants to have it or sent to someone you nominate to receive it, someone you know personally or a public figure. If you’d like any of the Yarn with Stitches quilts, or would like to nominate someone to receive one then email firstname.lastname@example.org