Students Staff

03 November 2014

Why we need a new Working Women's Charter

Professor Pamela Cox

Professor Pamela Cox

Forty years ago, a group of British women sat down to address the gulf that separated working women and men.

They came up with a Working Women’s Charter – a list of ten demands that they believed would help to bridge that gulf. Forty years on, less than half of those demands have been met.

Sociologist and historian Professor Pamela Cox, from the University of Essex, believes, in the build-up to the 2015 General Election, it is time to develop a new manifesto for change.

Listen to Professor Cox's TEDx talk: Why we need a new Working Women's Charter

See feature in The Guardian: Work in progress

Last week, the World Economic Forum published its latest Gender Gap Report, which saw the UK fall eight places to 26th, behind Rwanda, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Moldova. In the eight years since this annual survey began, the UK has dropped from ninth, demonstrating that the gender gap between men and women is widening or, at best, remaining static.

Professor Cox believes the gender pay gap, the lack of free or affordable childcare, and the under-representation of women in public life are outrageous. “Old cultures die hard and we don’t see change on the ground at the pace we’d want,” she said.

She was astounded by the news from the US that bosses at Apple and Facebook have offered to pay for women employees’ eggs to be frozen “in a bid to encourage more of them to sign up, stay longer and rise higher.”

“Has it really come to this?” she asks. “As working women we don’t need our eggs frozen. We need a serious manifesto for change.”

Professor Cox, who presented the BBC series’ Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter and Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs, also highlights the UK’s 18th ranking out of 27 OECD countries in last year’s Price Waterhouse Coopers Women in Work Index.

She is calling for a new Working Women’s Charter, with a list of new demands, to help stimulate a serious debate on the issues that matter to working women.

Professor Cox is co-hosting an event in London on 8 November with the organisation History and Policy, which creates opportunities for historians, policy makers and journalists to connect. It will be a starting point in discussing a new Charter with academics, policy analysts, campaigners, and trades unionists.


The conference: The Working Women’s Charter, 40 Years On, takes place on Saturday 8 November, 9.15am-4.15pm, at the Nash Lecture Theatre, Strand Campus, King’s College, London. It is co-organised by History and Policy, and supported by the Economic and Social Research Council. More information is available at:

...more news releases