Costing the Patriarchy at the V&A
Explore the shifting tides in regulation and social norms of women's relationship with money. See the swell and regress of women’s economic freedom over time. This non-linear timeline takes us around the world, where history and the present have been reordered into a progression of forward-thinking.
The World Economic Forum reports that instead of improving in 2016, gender inequality in the economy regressed to where it stood in 2008. Globally the average gender pay gap – which measures the difference between women’s and men’s waged earnings – is 23%. At the current rate of progress, it will take 170 years for women and men to be employed at the same rates, paid the same for equal work, and have the same levels of seniority. Clearly, a structural change is needed.
A bronze statue of a young, defiant girl is installed by State Street Global Advisors on International Women's Day in the heart of New York’s financial district. The controversial statue by artist Kristen Visbal is meant to send a message to US financial firms, calling for them to employ more women at senior levels. ‘Fearless Girl’ draws attention to these unpalatable statistics: 85% of financial advisors on Wall Street are men, and 25% of Russell 3,000 Index companies have no women on their boards.
The creation of coverture, the belief that married men and women are one financial entity. Widows and spinsters can own property, run taverns and sue in court. Over time, coverture is transformed into the view that women are property of their husbands.
Sewing machinists at the Ford Motoring Factory go on strike for equal pay. Women making car seat covers stop working in protest against a pay cut, which is set to be 15% less than the wage given to men. The strike causes all car production to grind to a halt. This strike contributes to the passing of the landmark 1970 Equal Pay Act.
A group of female journalists demand to be served in a pub stating ‘our money is equal so our rights must be equal.’ At this point in time women can still be refused the right to drink alcohol unaccompanied in a bar.
Civil law relaxes its control over how women spend their money: women are allowed to buy drinks in pubs without being refused service. Finally, the state drops the archaic legislation left over from a time when social norms deemed pubs to be a ‘male-only’ social place.
Smashing the glass ceiling: For the first time in history a law passes making companies ensure that at least 40% of their board members are women.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act passes. It is now illegal for a creditor to discriminate against any applicant on the basis of gender, marital status, race, national origin or age. Up until now, women could not apply for credit independently. Banks required single, widowed or divorced women to bring a man along to cosign any credit application, regardless of the woman’s income.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act passes. It is now illegal to fire a woman for being pregnant.
Married women are granted the right to a separate economy. This gives women the ability to earn their own income and manage it themselves. The law is an attempt to protect married women from husbands who pilfer away the family’s money on drink, gambling and prostitutes.
Up until 1850 women are deprived of the right to inheritance. Daughters receive inheritance only if the family does not have a son. Iceland becomes the first country to break this cycle of inequality by making unconditional inheritance rights between men and women.
The monumental Day of Protest, 24 October 1975, brings one fifth of Iceland’s female population marching on the streets of Reykjavik in the name of gender equality. The same day 90% of women across the country go on an all-out professional and domestic strike to prove how indispensable they are in the classrooms, the offices, the homes, and to the economy.
Equal pay for work of equal value: On International Women’s Day, Iceland is the first country in the world to announce a new law that will make companies have to prove they are dedicated to equal pay. Every company with 25 or more staff will need a special certificate confirming their commitment to pay equality. This progressive move comes as part of the push by Iceland to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.
Ancient Greece, 700BC-180BC ( Approximately)
Women are not allowed to inherit property, but they can enter into a contract worth less than a 'medimnos of barley' (measure of grain). They can deal in petty trades, such as selling food and garments. The prostitution industry allows women to play a role: prostitutes are usually slaves, and a brothel can be run by a woman.
Ancient Egypt, 3000 BC and after
Women have the same financial rights as men. Acquiring, owning and disposing of property is a legal practice open to both genders. As a woman you can enter into contracts, initiate civil court cases and be sued all in your own name. In civil law and the eyes of the state, a woman, married or not, is their own entity.