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French companies given three years to close gender pay gap

The Eiffel Tower in Paris lit up for International Women's Day 2018 ®https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenjohnson/

French companies caught discriminating against women over pay will be given three years to close the gap or face fines under a proposal announced ahead of International Women's Day. If passed by parliament, the measure will be rolled out by 2020.

The government revealed the planned crackdown to unions and employers on Wednesday, giving them a month to iron out details.

Men are still paid on average nine percent more than women in France, despite equal pay laws going back 45 years.

The measure is part of a social reform bill due to be presented to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe's cabinet at the end of next month

Time to act, says Eiffel Tower on International Women's Day


The Eiffel Tower was lit up in solidarity with the #MeToo Twitter trend overnight Wednesday to mark International Women's Day, with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeting "The fight for women's rights is every day. #8March is a day to remember together our determination and the necessity of this fight."

Anne Hidalgo tweets City Hall with Women's Day banners

Meanwhile, the UN labour agency warned that gender parity progress in the workplace could grind to a halt or even reverse.

In a new report, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said that the global pay gap is persistent, with women on average earning 20 percent less than men.

It also found that, for every 10 men in a job globally, only six women are employed. And women are more likely to have jobs in the informal sector with low wages and few protections.

Later this year, the ILO is set to debate the creation of a new international treaty focused on harassment and abuse in the workplace, which is seen as a major barrier to women getting a job.

Origins of International Women's Day

A German poster, which was banned, for International Women's Day in 1914 Public domain

International Women's Day, an annual global event, celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women has its origins going back to the beginning of the 20th century.

The first National Woman's Day was organised by the Socialist Party of America in the United States on 28 February 1909.

An International Socialist Women's Conference, meeting before the Socialist International in Denmark in 1910, called for the day to be observed worldwide and the occasion was marked, mainly be the left, from then on.

Adopted in 1975 by the United Nations, the day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

#MeToo helps women speak out

One major change that has come about in the past year has been the #MeToo hashtag, a social media movement that has drawn attention to sexual harassment around the world over revelations about film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

"The great thing about #MeToo - and Time's Up - is that not only has it made our culture more willing to listen to women and others who have been mistreated, it has also given these women the sort of permission to speak out the way they see fit, without having to act according to a traditional, socially acceptable script," Canadian cultural journalist Soraya Roberts told RFI. "How society chooses to react to these people will determine whether they are willing to move with the times or be stuck in the past."

Celebrities across the entertainment sector have been using public platforms, including award ceremonies to speak out, not just about sexual harrassment but also diversity.

Actress Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar for best actress at last Sunday's awards for her role in Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri called for the use of an "inclusion rider" - a clause in studio contracts which would set benchmarks for diversity in hiring.

Roberts welcomes this concept being mentioned but points out that it is not entirely new. "Inclusion rider stipulates that the cast and crew on a film would reflect the world in which we live, so in the US, that would mean at least 50 percent of those working on the project would be women or people of colour," she said.

"Hollywood has paying lip service to equity but this is an example of a practical means of changing things," she added. "There's been mention of higher-paid men taking pay cuts and things like that but the inclusion rider would be a simpler, relatively easy way of making real change in the community."