Yesterday, we remembered the fallen soldiers of World War One and other conflicts. Today we mark another milestone.
It's exactly 40 years since the Sex Discrimination Act came into force, establishing a legal framework under which women and men - single or married - should be entitled to the same protections against bias and harassment in the workplace and in other areas of life.
Five years earlier, the Equal Pay Act laid down the principle that women should enjoy the same pay and conditions as their male counterparts. Since then a series of amendments and new pieces of legislation have strengthened those rights and extended them to all genders.
"If it is possible to pig out on equality, that isn’t a risk that's likely to trouble women any time soon".
This may help to explain why, amid all the surging support for the Women’s Equality Party (WE), which Sandi Toksvig and I founded earlier this year - we hear the odd grumble.
Our 45,000 members and supporters are drawn from across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and from a diverse range of backgrounds — and they include plenty of men, who understand our central proposition: that a more equal society is better for them, too.
But a few people have different ideas. Women already have “enough equality” they insist.
Who knew there was such a thing as too much equality?
“Another piece of equality?”
“Oh, don’t tempt me. I’m on a diet.”
If it is possible to pig out on equality, that isn’t a risk that's likely to trouble women any time soon.
Before the Sex Discrimination Act, a woman could be sacked for getting pregnant or even just for getting engaged - a sure sign she’d be getting broody and, anyway, she needed to be home to welcome the main breadwinner.
Yet according to a recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, discrimination against working mothers is still rife, with as many as 54,000 new mothers pushed out of their jobs each year.
This morning, I’ll be marking the anniversary of the Sex Discrimination Act by taking part in a panel discussion organised by WISE, the campaign to promote women in science, technology and engineering.
Women make up just 14 per cent of the UK’s STEM workforce. In addition, females take up just under a third of seats in the House of Commons, and a quarter in the House of Lords.
Currently less than 24 per cent of FTSE 100 board members are women andjust five CEOs are.
We’re thin on the ground in all these fields and many more - and we still earn less too (a gap of 14.2 per cent between women and men in full-time work).
"Sandi and I set up WE because we ran out of patience waiting for politicians to deliver the changes necessary to achieve real equality".
The first significant day for working women this week was Monday’s Equal Pay Day, the date on which women in the UK collectively stop earning relative to men. From now until January 1, we effectively earn nothing at all and are working for free.
Add to that the fact that women are more likely to occupy low-paid jobs, work shorter hours, or not work at all - because of doing the lion’s share of parenting or caregiving - and today’s anniversary looks less like a cause to rejoice and more like a reason to stir things up a bit.
"More equality? Don't mind if I do".
Sandi and I set up WE — now led by Sophie Walker — because we ran out of patience waiting for politicians to deliver the other changes necessary to achieve real equality.
The 1975 Sex Discrimination Act was an important milestone, but WE have set out ways to cover the remaining distance - and quickly. Our first policy document, launched on October 20, proposes a range of different measures devised in wide consultation with our 65 branches, experts and grassroots organisations.
WE are focused on making existing legislation work, as well as introducing new laws and finding ways to shift outdated and damaging attitudes. Our policies include an expansion of flexible working, fresh support for equal parenting and care-giving, stronger and better-enforced anti-discrimination laws and greater implementation of employer transparency.
The Sex Discrimination Act was hugely important (as was its replacement, the2010 Equality Act) - but there is so much left to do.
We are talking to anyone who can help advance this agenda, and that includes politicians from other parties. We’re planning to run candidates as early as next year but we’re also open to working with other parties and have even invited them to steal our policies too.
“Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on. Take some more equality. There’s more than enough for everyone.”