Seismic gender pay gap at King’s College London

17 May 2015: Jacqueline Robbins, a student at King's, has launched a campaign against the pay gap at the college

I am a PhD student working with human stem cells to try and understand what happens to our brains in Alzheimer’s disease. I love researching this – but I can’t help thinking that a career in academia would be hugely demoralising, knowing that I would be paid up to 20% less than men in the same field.

The gender pay gap figures published in Times Higher Education really shoved in our faces the profound gender inequality in academia. Among the worst was my university, King’s College London, where women academics are paid £46,030 on average while men are paid £56,301 – a 19% difference. That’s a bigger pay gap than what the ‘Made in Dagenham’ women encountered at Ford in the 1960s.

This realisation forced us to wake up to the fact that we need to change this, so we’ve launched a campaign to end the gender pay gap at King’s. The University of London was the first in the UK to admit women, and it is imperative that it now leads the way with fair pay.

With the tireless work and legal battles of feminists in the 20th century, I find it hard to understand why we still have to argue this case. Uta Frith, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, points out that 'Working towards gender equality in academia is pointless without the commitment to pay equality.' For aspiring academics such as myself the current situation sends a discouraging message that research and teaching done by women is not valued as much as if performed by men. Moreover, at the current rate the pay gap will not be closed during my career, as The Fawcett Society, the leading charity for women’s rights in the UK estimates it will take 52 years. In addition to the moral imperative of reducing gender pay gaps, it is increasingly recognised that there are significant macroeconomic gains [pdf] to be had from reducing such disparities.

Khalida Ismail, Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at King’s, points out that 'Female academics have more onerous job plans and workloads (perhaps to prove themselves) and get paid less.' I have heard from women academics at King’s that they had assumed they were not performing as well as the men in equivalent positions, which is upsetting to hear from the fantastic women role models I have here.

The lack of transparency when it comes to pay in the UK is a huge part of the issue, and countries that enforce transparency such as Sweden, Denmark and Belgium report smaller pay gaps. We are petitioning King’s to make publicly available the results of a pay review conducted two years ago, including salaries related to both gender and ethnicity. This transparency is needed to help ensure that pay is not affected by one’s gender or the colour of our skin, and that employees have the power to challenge this if they find that it is.

Progressive work is being done by the Athena SWAN committee at King’s, an initiative in UK universities to advance gender equality, updated this month to recognise intersectional factors and include trans staff. However, more needs to be done to ensure things improve in areas such as pay equality. One simple measure is equal representation amongst selection committees and those involved in salary negotiations. Athena SWAN certification is now needed to attract major research grants, so it is important to ensure that boxes are not just ticked to secure research funding and that permanent change is actually the driving factor.

We want information in the pay review to go beyond gender as although I’m upset about this situation in regards to how it affects me personally, it is a fundamental issue of equality and people of colour and transgender people are worse affected by unequal pay. Throughout this campaign we’ve worked closely with the inspiring intersectional feminist student group at King’s to ensure our campaign is as inclusive as possible. Our aim is to bring about positive change on fair pay across a diverse spectrum of people.

So please sign our petition or better yet, set up a campaign at your university or workplace.



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The IF Project Summer School: a free experiment in alternative higher education

15 May 2015: As the government attacks education, IF brings together those who want to teach and those who want to learn just for the love of it, writes Hilary Wainwright

Next month, in various venues around London, the IF Project’s 2nd Free Humanities Summer School will get underway. Professors from top universities will give lectures at no charge, donors and well-wishers will provide free space, and post-graduate students will conduct seminars.

The IF Project is an experiment in alternative higher education, a positive statement that access to higher education is for every one, not just the rich. So, lectures are all free, and maximum use is made of free public culture, such as galleries and free cultural events. IF describes itself as a community of those who want to teach and those who want to learn just for the love of it.

A ruthless attack on education was one of the first acts of the 2010 coalition government. It hugely increased tuition fees and removed all - all - direct funding of humanities subjects. There was to be no government money for philosophy, history, literature, politics, economics, and so on. This second summer school coincides with a new Tory government who we should expect to take the 'liberalisation' of education even further.

Cameron’s plan for the 2010 generation was that students should take out loans to study subjects useful to the economy - science, technology, engineering and business studies (fine subjects for those who want to study them) and thus earn enough to pay back the loans. Those who wanted a liberal arts education would, in many cases, pay more than the cost of their degree for the privilege of graduating into a low-wage zero-hour contract economy.

But it is telling, is it not, that the top political ranks are still stuffed with highly educated men and women (mostly the former) who studied classics and history at school and went on to study philosophy, politics and economics? A humanities education is denied to the poor but is what the ruling classes choose for themselves!

The IF Project is dedicated to offering all who want it the chance to study the arts and humanities at no cost. This, it is worth reflecting, is the education that develops habits of critical analysis, the ability to argue and not be hoodwinked by politicians, and to understand history and therefore the politics of the day.

IF courses are all free and there are still some places for June. The Summer School is pitched at 18-30 year olds who have not already studied for an undergraduate degree. It takes only takes 5 minutes or so to apply online here on the IF website.



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People’s Agenda profile 31: Precarious Workers Brigade

13 May 2015: The PWB are taking on precarious work in the education and culture sector, they tell us in this thirty-first People's Agenda profile

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'We call out in solidarity with all those struggling to make a living in this climate of instability and enforced austerity. We call for an end to precarity and a rethinking of the wage/work relationship for example through universal income. '

Precarious Workers Brigade are a UK-based group of precarious workers in culture and education.

We believe that precarity is a social issue rather than an individual one shared across different sectors of the economy. It's effects can feel like personal failure within neoliberal frameworks of individualisation, entrepreneurship, zero hours contracts, voluntary entry level positions and unpaid internships.

We call out in solidarity with all those struggling to make a living in this climate of instability and enforced austerity. We call for an end to precarity and a rethinking of the wage/work relationship for example through universal income.

Our praxis springs from a shared commitment to developing research and actions that are practical, relevant and easily shared and applied. If putting an end to precarity is the social justice we seek, our political project involves developing tactics, strategies, formats, practices, dispositions, knowledges and tools for making this happen.

Some tools that have come out of our working process include a Counter-Guide to Free Labour in the Arts’, open letters to institutions and an ‘Alternative Curriculum’ for teaching ‘professional development’ or work placement modules. We also run workshops with art/design students and recent graduates. All our tools are for sharing, using and developing.

To find out more: @PWB_Carrots

Red Pepper are running the People's Agenda series in the run up to the General Election, demonstrating the breadth of exciting grassroots political activity in the UK.



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People’s Agenda profile 30: Shake!

13 May 2015: Shake! brings together young people, artists & campaigners to develop creative responses to social injustice, we find out in this thirtieth People's Agenda profile

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'Shake! has shown me a realisation of “the personal is political”, and it was Shake! that truly introduced me to a politics committed to engaging the imagination, heart and body as well as the mind.'

Shake! is a series of workshops that work to empower young people to challenge oppressive structures through art, and grassroots creative campaigns for change. No one theory can explain or solve the violent structural issues pervading our lives. As such, Shake!’s theory of change is pluralistic and dynamic, and a variety of methods are employed to find methods of resistance and change. Participants follow a poetry or film-making pathway, and utilize these art-forms to tackle power and privilege through the lenses of race, class, gender, sexuality and environment, amongst others; the power inherent in art is made manifest.

In February, the theme was “States of Violence”. One of the most pertinent questions discussed was whether, under an inherently violent neoliberal system that has also insidiously invaded our minds, reconstruction and resistance must necessarily include aspects of violence. This was followed by a focus on moralizing violence, using Fanon as a touchstone – the general consensus here was that violence, for the oppressed, can sometimes be a necessary course of action, but that this can have dangerous –violent – implications on the psyche of the oppressed.

The topic was challenging, but two things meant that we flourished in spite of that. Firstly, the facilitators and group itself were devoted to the safe space policy, and people strangers moments before were sharing their most deeply personal experiences. Secondly, we explored self-care as a radical act, enabling us to outwit and outlast our oppressors.

Shake! has shown me a realization of “the personal is political”, and it was Shake! that truly introduced me to a politics committed to engaging the imagination, heart and body as well as the mind.

-Jinan Golley

To find out more: @voicesthatSHAKE

Red Pepper are running the People's Agenda series in the run up to the General Election, demonstrating the breadth of exciting grassroots political activity in the UK.



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People’s Agenda profile 29: WMD Awareness

13 May 2015: Getting young people active in the decision on Trident is the work of WMD Awareness, the twenty-ninth organisation profiled in our People's Agenda series

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'Britain’s nuclear weapons potentially have immense humanitarian, environmental, political, and economic consequences and with a government decision on the future of our current system, Trident, looming in 2016, we want to make this a national issue among young people. '

Britain’s nuclear weapons potentially have immense humanitarian, environmental, political, and economic consequences and with a government decision on the future of our current system, Trident, looming in 2016, we want to make this a national issue among young people.

WMD Awareness works to give young adults in Britain, the ones who will be affected by this decision, a voice in this debate by offering engaging and informative resources and concrete opportunities to get involved and make their voice heard.

We work with our team of young Ambassadors from around the country, using a combination of creative grassroots approaches that expand Ambassadors' skill-sets, involve other members of the public and create a positive, community atmosphere.

We offer training and opportunities to make films, organise events such as film screenings, write articles and organise our social media as well as and lobbying decision-makers in and around Parliament.

WMD Awareness believes that this generation of young people can make change happen on the issues they care about.

To find out more: @WMDAwareness

Red Pepper are running the People's Agenda series in the run up to the General Election, demonstrating the breadth of exciting grassroots political activity in the UK.



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People’s Agenda profile 28: Psychologists Against Austerity

13 May 2015: Psychologists are speaking out against the damaging psychological costs of Austerity in this twenty-eighth People's Agenda profile

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'We argue for a community-led approach to mental and emotional wellbeing that develops collective responses to individual needs and strengthens communities; one that supports and liberates, rather than punishing people in times of need.'



Psychologists Against Austerity is a national campaign that highlights the psychological costs of austerity policies. We take the position that the austerity policies are an ideological choice by the Government and not necessary or inevitable economic measures. Psychologists are often in a position to see the effects that social and economic changes have on people and communities. We draw attention to these human costs, which in the long-term will have additional social and economic repercussions.



It is our public and professional duty to speak out against the further implementation of austerity policies, as these have direct psychological impacts. We draw on academic research as well as our professional and personal experience to identify the damaging psychological costs of austerity measures, and we have produced a briefing paper detailing this research evidence base. We also outline an alternative vision for a society that creates the conditions for people to have 'freedom to live a valued life'.



We call for social policy that works towards a more equitable and participatory society. We argue for a community-led approach to mental and emotional wellbeing that develops collective responses to individual needs and strengthens communities; one that supports and liberates, rather than punishing people in times of need.



To find out more: For further information please contact Tamsin Curno tamsincurno@aol.com



Red Pepper are running the People's Agenda series in the run up to the General Election, demonstrating the breadth of exciting grassroots political activity in the UK.





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People’s Agenda profile 27: Independent Workers of Great Britain University of London branch

13 May 2015: The IWGB are taking on and winning high profile workplace struggles in traditionally precarious workplaces we find out in this twenty-seventh People's Agenda profile

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'This campaign model (worker-led, militant and featuring intensive social media and press pressure) is now being exported across London, with similar battles being waged at John Lewis, the Barbican, the Royal Opera House, Bloomberg and more. More and more workers are realising that through the IWGB they can be successful in winning both the London Living Wage and substantial improvements to their terms and conditions.'

The IWGB is an independent union, the majority of whose members are vulnerable migrant workers, often outsourced, frequently non-English speaking, and previously invisible. This is now changing, as a consequence of high-profile struggles such as the 3 Cosas Campaign, which successfully won improved holiday and sick pay rights for contract workers at the University of London.

This campaign model (worker-led, militant and featuring intensive social media and press pressure) is now being exported across London, with similar battles being waged at John Lewis, the Barbican, the Royal Opera House, Bloomberg and more. More and more workers are realising that through the IWGB they can be successful in winning both the London Living Wage and substantial improvements to their terms and conditions.

The IWGB also recognises that case work is central to building support and ensuring that activists are protected against recriminations, and as such prioritises the representation of workers at grievances and disciplinaries, and seeks to ensure all who need it get an opportunity to be represented at an Employment Tribunal.

A government that was committed to helping this oft-exploited workforce should immediately repeal the recent ET fees, and legislate to remove the current restrictive anti-strike laws. Then you’d really see some action!

To find out more: @IWGBUoL

Red Pepper are running the People's Agenda series in the run up to the General Election, demonstrating the breadth of exciting grassroots political activity in the UK.



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Peoples Agenda profile 26: Joint Enterprise not Guilty by Association

13 May 2015: JENGbA are calling for the abolition or radical reform of the 'joint enterprise' law, they tell us in this twenty-sixth People's Agenda profile

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'We are now supporting more than 500 prisoners - prisoners who are maintaining their innocence who have no voice. '

JENGbA (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association) is a grassroots campaign who highlight the injustice of the “law” of joint enterprise which can convict people for simply being near the scene of a crime or associated in some way with the perpetrator.

Children as young as 13 are being given life sentences for crimes committed by others. Jengba is calling for this "law" to be abolished or radically reformed.

We are now supporting more than 500 prisoners - prisoners who are maintaining their innocence who have no voice. Prisoners’ families also had no one to turn to, the campaign has not only given the prisoners a voice but we can now advise families on legal points – this is all down to our own experiences of the law and how it affected our loved ones. Because of our campaigning, the Justice Select Committee has recently published a report which calls on the Government for an urgent reform of the law.

To find out more: @JENGbA

Red Pepper are running the People's Agenda series in the run up to the General Election, demonstrating the breadth of exciting grassroots political activity in the UK.



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People’s Agenda profile 25: English Collective of Prostitutes

13 May 2015: The ECP have been campaigning against laws that criminalise sex work for decades, we find out in this twenty-fifth People's Agenda profile

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'Since 1975, the ECP has been campaigning for sex workers to have rights like other workers; higher benefits and wages so no one is driven into prostitution by poverty and whoever wants to leave can. '

What would you do if you were told that hundreds of mothers working to support their children were criminalised and even imprisoned; that women were raided for being immigrant, and a neighbour was banned from her borough for 26 years? Wouldn’t you want to help stop such discrimination?

This happens to sex workers every day.

Instead of support from mainstream feminists, we face more criminalisation. They want to make clients illegal, which would not stop prostitution, but it would make it more dangerous and stigmatising for sex workers. Those pushing for criminalisation include Labour feminists who, whilst in government, implemented austerity cuts which propelled thousands of women into prostitution.

Since 1975, the ECP has been campaigning for sex workers to have rights like other workers; higher benefits and wages so no one is driven into prostitution by poverty and whoever wants to leave can.

New Zealand decriminalised in 2003. A five-year government review found measurable improvements: no increase in prostitution or trafficking; sex workers can work collectively, refuse any client, report violence and leave prostitution if they choose; drug users are treated as patients not criminals.

A 2010 poll found 2/3 of the UK public would welcome a similar law on grounds of safety. Shouldn’t those who claim to speak for women listen to the women on the spot?

To find out more: prostitutescollective.net

Red Pepper are running the People's Agenda series in the run up to the General Election, demonstrating the breadth of exciting grassroots political activity in the UK.



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37% is not a majority – now is the time for proportional representation

10 May 2015: The voting system has been exposed as illegitimate in the eyes of millions – we have a historic opportunity to push for change, writes Nicole Anders

Democracy in Britain has never looked more broken. The Tories have won an overall majority with just 37 per cent of the vote – while the Greens stacked up over a million votes but are still stuck on one MP.

It's only an accident of geography, and the hard work of local campaigners, that has kept Caroline Lucas in place in Brighton. What kind of democracy is it when over a million voters only have one representative? And how can people say with a straight face that the Tories have a mandate to govern?

I've been, to be honest, frustrated that this feeling is so widespread, but not much has been done apart from e-petitions. E-petitions have their place but I feel like we need so much more! So some friends and I decided to do something about it.

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We believe there is a historic opportunity to launch a huge, public campaign for proportional representation. We're not a pre-existing campaign group, and we want to be open to all, as accessible as possible and putting the case in the clearest language we can.

Our campaign is called Proportional to be totally clear what it is that we want, and it is our specific focus. This isn't just a call for 'fairer votes' or electoral reform generally, and it definitely isn't the non-proportional alternative vote (AV) system that voters rejected in the referendum. We need proportional representation, the only system that fairly represents what voters want. 94 countries have proportional systems – why should Britain be any exception?

The most common objection we hear is that Britain has a different tradition, where MPs are linked to constituencies. But this can easily be preserved through the use of a 'top-up list', as it already is in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and London Assembly. The public at large needs to hear these arguments.

We plan to use a diversity of tactics – whether it's videos, stickers, infographics, social media, mainstream media, rallies, posters, lobbying MPs... there's so much to do and we're open to everyone's ideas.

Proportional representation could transform British politics and give us hope again. Please, get involved and spread the word.

Proportional is currently fundraising on Indiegogo. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter at @proportionaluk.



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