French women stage mass walkout in protest against wage gap (PHOTOS)
Women across France have been urged to walk out of work at 16:34 on Monday in a protest for equal pay called for by a feminist newsletter.
According to the group Les Glorieuses (The Glorious) the wage gap between men and women in France is 15.1 percent, which they equate to working for free for the last 38.2 working days of the year.
“The workers of France want equal pay! From 7 November at 4:34 p.m. (and 7 seconds), women work ‘voluntarily’,” the statement on the group’s Facebook page explained.
“We call on women, men, trade unions and women’s organizations to join the ‘7 November 4:34 pm’ movement and make the events and demonstrations for wage inequality a central political issue. By seizing this collectively, we can show that wage inequality between the sexes is not only a woman’s issue.”
The Facebook page also listed a number of rallies and demonstrations around the country, including the Place de la République in Paris as well as other cities such as Toulouse, Nantes and Bordeaux. The walkout is accompanied by a ‘Twitter Thunderclap,’ in which thousands of users tweet their support at the same time.
Before the Monday event kicked off, the Facebook page amassed over 4,900 attendees and a further 7,000 “interested.” Images shared on social media showed crowds gathering on the Place de la République as well as people showing their solidarity.
“We have 25,000 subscribers, and it is the most read and most shared issue since its inception,” Les Glorieuses co-founder Alix Heuer told BFM TV. “We see that people are passionate about the issue of inequality, we have men and unions who came to us to support us and to carry out joint actions.”
The walkout has been supported by a number of other women’s rights groups such as Osez le Féminisme (Dare to be Feminist), while Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for women's rights, has said that any women from her office who wish to take part are free to do so.
“When women protest, they make visible what is invisible, when they speak their outrage and raise collective indignation even higher, I support it,” she told the Le Parisien newspaper.
Although Le Monde has pointed out that the wage gap is actually higher than calculated by Les Glorieuses by 0.4 percent, it said that this is not particularly important as the protest is largely symbolic. The 7 November movement draws inspiration from the 1974 women’s strike in Iceland, where 90 percent of Icelandic women suddenly stopped their work and household chores. The strike had the effect of raising awareness for women’s rights and five years later Vigdis Finnbogadottir, the world’s first female president, was elected.
Les Glorieuses has emphasized that the walkout on Monday was not a strike – that can only be called by the unions – and workers had to receive permission from their employers if they wished to leave early. Additionally, many women were unable to take part due to their duties as mothers or other commitments.
“We’re not a group or a political movement,” Rebecca Amsellem, another Les Glorieuses co-founder, told Le Parisien. “I just wanted to raise awareness on the social networks by copying the Icelandic example. I never thought it would take off so much!”