PAYING the living wage is a feminist issue, according to a charity that works to improve the lives of women and girls.
With Scotland having the unenviable distinction of the biggest gender pay gap in the UK, paying at least the living wage is a matter of principle for the YWCA, recently rebranded as The Young Women’s Movement.
The Young Women’s Movement believes that gender inequality is a structural issue, and that the barriers women experience are part of institutionalised inequality which unfairly favours men in terms of position, power and wealth.
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“As a result, the living wage plays an important role in society in setting a standard for employers to adhere to, and ensure staff feel valued in their workplace,” said director Kara Brown.
The organisation now prides itself on being an accredited living wage employer and on its recruitment policy which attracts a range of talented and diverse young women.
“Scotland has the biggest gender pay gap in the UK and paying our staff the living wage is, for us, a feminist issue,” said Brown.
“It’s about us walking the walk in terms of what we believe in, and we think it’s unacceptable that we live in a society where the minimum wage is less than the amount required for a person to live on.
"Someone working full time on the minimum wage can still be living below the poverty line.
“Leaders of every organisation can change that by pledging to pay the living wage and by using the platform we have to speak up.”
Brown added: “Throughout its 160-year-old history, YWCA Scotland did not always meet the equivalent of today’s living wage.
“Part of our rebrand to The Young Women’s Movement involved making sure that every single staff member and intern is paid more than the minimum that they can live off.
“The national minimum wage is not enough.”
Established in 1855 as the Young Women’s Christian Association, YWCA Scotland creates safe spaces for girls and young women in Scotland to explore gender and equality and lead the change they want to see.
When it recently rebranded as The Young Women’s Movement, the organisation launched a new website, expanded its safe spaces model across 16 schools and several local young women’s groups across the country and launched two ground-breaking new projects – the Status of Young Women in Scotland research, and #FeministFest arts and feminism programme for women and girls.
The small organisation also works with partners to welcome more than 500 refugee and disadvantaged women and girls to an empowering safe space in Glasgow every year where they explore gender equality and build confidence and skills.
The staff team at The Young Women’s Movement is made up of two full-time members in their development centre in Edinburgh – Brown and digital media officer Jemma Tracey – and four staff who operate from their Glasgow centre: Glasgow coordinator Carol Cunningham, and tutor organisers Ange, Heidi and Libby.
Since it was launched in April 2014, more than 600 organisations in Scotland have signed up to the scheme to become accredited as official living wage employers, which means paying their workers at least £8.45 per hour.