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Social Justice

Need some Pay Gap Filler? Gender equality charity opens (spoof) online store

The Girls’ Network’s store is meant to raise funds and boost prospects for teenage girls who don’t get the chance at a career

What is on your Black Friday shopping list? A new TV may be your most wanted, or a deal on a sofa to make those lockdown blues more comfortable.

But have you ever needed a “Pay Gap Filler to fix the holes in your income”? A pink hammer to smash glass ceilings?  Or have you craved a ‘Have-It-All’ hold-all to pack in all work and home life essentials, available in daring shades of fuschia, rose and blush?

Head down to The Empowerium to strike a blow against gender inequality this week as the newest online retailer opens its doors – with a twist.

Don’t get too excited if you’re browsing for an equal opportunities Black Friday bargain – the spoof store is a fundraising site for The Girls’ Network (TGN), a charity working to raise the career prospects of girls and young women from disadvantaged communities.

When users click through to buy the products they are told that the items have “been removed from The Empowerium due to extreme sexism and ridiculousness.

“To invest in something that will *actually* empower girls and create future leaders, donate now.”

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Though these products are fake, gender inequality in the workplace is real. There is still a gender pay gap in the UK, and many women are forced to prioritise family life, or have to work harder for the same recognition as their male peers.

The Girls’ Network has been campaigning against these inequalities since 2013, offering mentoring, workshops, work experience placements and connections that can be hard to come by for teenagers desperate to work in their dream careers. TGN supports 1,000 girls aged between 14 and 19.

Fake products at The Empowerium like “Lean In” heels to encourage striding into work with the confidence of a leader or “Double Standard” bifocals to spot gender inequalities won’t do much to solve the injustice, but TGN hope the stunt will highlight the issue.

Charly Young, chief executive and co-founder of The Girls’ Network, said: “We believe that no young woman should have her future limited by her gender, ethnicity, background, or parental income. 

“We want to see all girls being supported to realise their ambitions, discover their self-worth, and develop their capacity to shape the world and their future.” 

TGN’s work boosts social mobility for teenage girls like 16-year-old Shantae from Balham, south London.

The TGN mentorship programme connects teenagers with mentors where they can ask burning questions about how to progress careers.

And even during lockdown, the charity has continued to connect youngsters with professionals in their chosen careers to get tips on how to get ahead.

It’s vital support at a time when youth employment has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to the impact on the hospitality and retail sectors where young people typically work. Almost two million young workers were furloughed during the first national lockdown while unemployment soared – 602,000 young people aged 16-24 were without work between July and September, up 101,000 on 2019 figures from the same period.

Shantae said: “My favourite thing about the programme is that not only has it helped me develop confidence and communication skills, it’s given me the opportunity to meet professionals from the working world.

“These contacts have given me great advice and I know I can keep in touch with them in the future. I don’t think I would have had this experience if it wasn’t for the programme. It’s been reassuring to know I’ve got my mentor to talk to, even in lockdown.”

Visit TheEmpowerium.com and thegirlsnetwork.org.uk to donate.

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