Clare Mellor addresses delegates ahead of International Women's Day 2019
Clare Mellor, Thompsons' operations director, reflects on the power of women in solidarity ahead of International Women's Day at the TUC's Women Conference 2019 on 6 March:
"I was delighted to be asked to speak again at this year’s conference. From all of the presentations, speeches and conferences I attend across the year, this is, without doubt, the warmest, most supportive of all. And this led to me reflecting on the power of women in solidarity, and the force we have when we come together in support of common goals and in support of each other.
"The challenges that women face in the workplace continue. At the heart of why Thompsons exists is our work in solidarity with people across the trade union movement, supporting workers’ rights and social justice. And, of course, it is when we work together with you that we can achieve the most, using the power of the collective in tackling the ongoing issues that women face.
"Issues of equal pay for equal work which continue across the private and the public sector - working with trade unions, we have recovered millions of pounds in arrears of pay for female trade union members and our work in this area continues.
"Issues around the gender pay gap - the figures from April 2018, the first year of reporting, revealed that based on the median hourly pay men are paid more than women in almost 8,000 out of just over 10,000 companies and public bodies in Britain. Nearly eight out of 10 had a gender pay gap. Some sectors had a wider gap than others – construction being a prime example. Shockingly, but not surprisingly, no sector pays women better than men on average.
"These figures do not tell us about equal pay for equal work, but they do raise questions about structural inequalities in the workforce, what is preventing women from getting equal opportunities for the roles with higher pay, and, of course, what needs to be done to close the gap. These are matters of equality and justice, and they cannot go unchallenged.
"By way of example is retail - an area of industry in the news for many reasons at the moment, with a toxic, unchecked sexist and misogynistic culture seemingly running rampant through some organisations.
"Only 24 per cent of retailers have a female chief executive. Yet the workforce is dominated by women, particularly at the lower ends, and most of the spending decisions are made by a woman or the mother in the family – a clear picture of an imbalance feeding the gender pay gap, and one which is completely out of kilter with the broader society and their own workforces.
"And yet we know that there is huge power in gender equality in transforming workplaces. Research shows that businesses with a higher percentage of women in senior positions are more profitable.
"So how do we break this self-perpetuating cycle of men appointing men to senior roles? We call out gender inequality wherever we see it, and we act in solidarity with each other. We build trade union membership, and we use our collective power to transform and improve women’s positions in the workplace.
"We use the legal mechanisms available to us to challenge discrimination, harassment and victimisation of women in the workplace.
"And we work to make workplaces better for women, supporting campaigns like Period Dignity, where Thompsons have been proud to follow the example of trade union colleagues in ensuring availability of sanitary products for women in all of our workplaces.
"We look forward to our continuing work with you, and what we can achieve together."
Clare Mellor is Thompsons Solicitors' operations director and a member of the Executive Board.
Based in the firm's head office in London, Clare oversees the operational delivery for the firm's UK-wide network of offices. Learn more about Clare by visiting her profile.