16 November 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful #3

I haven't done one of these posts for quite a while (I actually posted my last one exactly a year ago!). I enjoy putting them together because, although life can be a little tough at times, there is still a lot to be grateful for. I may be struggling to find a job, I may miss my boyfriend a heck of a lot and life may not be going exactly how I expected it to be at this stage but I can still find the good in it.

So here are some of my reasons to happy recently!

I found this picture from my trip to Manchester in May and remembering my visit puts a smile on my face

1)The Kindness of Strangers: I'm sure you've all seen the footage of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; over 3500 people have died with scores of others left without food, water and homes. I volunteer at Oxfam and yesterday we took it in turns to go outside with a bucket and get donations from the public. Within an hour we'd raised almost £100; one man gave us £20 while another gave £10, and lots of people commented that donating was 'the least they could do.' It was just so nice to see people give so generously for people they'd never met before and to see it as a natural response to a tragedy like the typhoon.
The money we raised may not be a lot in the long run, but hopefully it can go some way to helping the survivors.
If you would like to help the relief effort in the Philippines, you can check out the Disasters Emergency Committee for information on various ways to donate.

2)Hard Work Pays Off: Last week I got my thesis results back and it was good news! I got 62 for my thesis (perhaps not the best mark but I was very pleased, especially as I'd convinced myself I'd failed) and will officially be graduating with commendation from my Masters degree. I really enjoyed doing the research for my thesis but I found it hard to put it all together and keep on top of everything; writing almost 18000 words takes it out of you! There was many a sleepless night spent worrying about everything, so it was nice to see that it wasn't all in vain and what I'd put together actually wasn't awful.

3)Surprise Phonecalls: Earlier this week I received a call from my old boss at Waterstones, where I worked last Christmas, asking me to come back in for this Christmas period. I was so happy to get the call as I thought I'd missed my chance to get any work this Christmas. I loved my job last year; I loved just being around the books and helping people get ready for Christmas, and I hope it will be the same again this year. It also gives me something to do as well; I don't really have a lot of structure at the minute and keep wasting my days sleeping and watching (and crying at) Gilmore Girls, so I hope this will give me a bit of purpose (as well as discount on all those lovely books!)

4)Rewards:I have £5 saved up on my Debenhams Beauty Card and they're running a 10% off beauty promotion this week. As a little reward to myself for my results, I'm going to splash out on a new MAC lipstick which will be better than half price with the discounts. I could even wear my new purchase to graduation.
I'm trying to decide between Dubonnet and Brick-o-la, even though I definitely do not need another red lipstick in my life. Which one would you choose?

What's been making you happy recently? What lipstick do you think I should buy?!

7 November 2013

Happy Equal Pay Day?

Equal Pay Day is probably not a day that you've ever heard of. It's not a fun holiday like Christmas and actually the fact that it even exists makes me more than a bit angry, but it is a very important day. So I bet you're wondering what the heck Equal Pay Day actually is and why I'm bothering to mention it at all.

Each year, November 7th marks the day when women effectively begin to work for free due to the wage gap.
Despite the implementation of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, which aimed to ensure that men and women were paid equally for equal work, the UK still has the largest pay gap in the European Union.
 Women working full time routinely earn 15 per cent less per hour than their male counterparts. This means that for every £1 earned by a man, a woman earns only 85p. The wage discrepancy is worse for part-time work; women make up 74 per cent of the part-time workforce but earn 35 per cent less than men; they 'celebrated' their Equal Pay Day on August 27th. As women also traditionally do most unpaid work outside of a professional context, such as childcare and housework, they are more likely to work part-time hours than men are, leaving them much more likely to be paid unfairly.

The wage gap is not restricted to just a few areas of employment, either. In fact, in 32 of the 35 major professional sectors, women will earn less than men. The exact gap in wages also varies in different sectors; for example, in the financial sector, women earn an estimated 55 per cent less. That means a man earns more than twice as much as a woman for the same work.
Many women also work in the private sector, where the pay gap is around 20 per cent. Due to the recession, and jobs cuts in the public sector, many more women are forced into the private sector work and as such are more vulnerable to these wage discrepancies.
It isn't simply wages either; men receive an estimated £150,000 extra in bonuses during their career.

The issue of equal pay is often hidden away, as people are afraid to ask about money for fear of rocking the boat. Many companies also keep their payroll details private so no external party can examine the fairness of their wages.
Attempts are also often made to justify the wage gap by some notion of how men and women are different and as such should be paid differently. It is true that women often take time off to have children and care for them, but this is not and should not be the norm; paternity leave should also be offered, along with cheaper childcare, to ensure it is not solely women who a) bear the brunt of raising children and b) are then penalised for having children in the first place. Many women choose to leave work, permanently or temporarily, to care for their children which of course is fine; it's the fact that it's really women who are expected to leave work to attend to childcare and on their return their absence is used to justify their lower wages which is an issue!

The fact remains that even forty years after the Equal Pay Act was introduced, women are paid less than men for equal work. As well as perpetuating inequality and being wholly unfair and unjustified, lack of equal pay can also have an impact on employee morale and performance. It really is in the best interests of everyone to ensure wage equality.
To combat the inequality in wages, transparency of company pay roll is needed, as well as a fundamental change to the perception of women in the workplace and a challenging of the stereotypes which often haunt women as they embark on their careers is crucial.

To me, and I hope you, it really is unacceptable that this is allowed to continue. I wanted to raise awareness of this issue because it really is important- and fair!- that women are paid equally to their male counterparts for the same work. We have come a long way in terms of equality, thankfully, but we still have far to go. Failing to pay women equally shows that in many instances women are still not equally respected in the working world and that must change.
It's time that women and their worth were equally recognised and respected.

Have you heard of Equal Pay Day before? What do you think about the lack of equality in wages?

For more information on equal pay, you can visit The Fawcett Society or check out the #equalpay hashtag on Twitter.

3 November 2013

Things to See and Do: Prague

At the beginning of October, partly as a way to celebrate completing my Masters, Pete and I went on our first trip abroad together. Originally we wanted to go somewhere sunny but we left the organising very late so instead decided on a city break and chose Prague. It was an excellent choice!

We arrived late on a Sunday evening and after checking in to our amazing hotel went for a quick wander to find some dinner, before heading back and getting some sleep for the days ahead.

Our hotel was only 15 minutes from the famous and beautiful Charles Bridge, which was probably my favourite part of Prague. It was so amazing to walk across such a monument and the atmosphere was lovely; people everywhere, buskers and amazing statues wherever you turned. It was really hard to capture the beauty of the bridge but I loved it. I made sure we crossed it every day and I loved walking across it at night and as the sun was setting; the light just made it even more beautiful.

Prague is full of beautiful buildings; everywhere you turn you'll find something gorgeous to make you look twice.

The spires of the church before Tyn are so iconic and noticeable, dominating the Old Town Square (and appearing on the cover of many a Prague travel guide!)

However, my favourite part of the Old Town Square was the amazing astronomical clock. Every hour, on the hour, the figures start to move and saints appear up above and move around the clock as it chimes. Huge crowds gather underneath to catch a glimpse and when you realise it was made in the 15th century it's pretty amazing. I thought the clock face on its own was beautiful, even without the little show it puts on.

We spent an entire day just wandering around the grounds of Prague Castle and my favourite bit there was St Vitus' Cathedral with its absolutely gorgeous stained glass windows. There were so many of them and they were just beautiful. We also saw three separate couples getting their wedding photos taken in different parts of the castle grounds and I can definitely see why they opted for it; everything was so lovely and would provide the perfect backdrop for any wedding pictures. We were there for hours and didn't even get to see all of what the castle had to offer.

We spent a bit of time sitting on the banks of the Vlatva, dodging the swans and enjoying this view of the Charles Bridge from a different angle. It was nice to enjoy the beautiful bridge without being caught up in the crowds of snap-happy tourists and just watch the boats glide by, especially because we walked a lot.

We climbed a lot of towers during our trip but it was a great way to see all of Prague laid out underneath you. The one above, Petrin Tower, was modeled on the Eiffel Tower and at 299 steps was the biggest one we climbed. 

This amazing view (and one of my favourite pictures which I took) shows Prague from the top of Petrin Hill. You can see just how crowded the Charles Bridge is but it was so amazing to see Prague from this angle and get a little way out of the centre.

So there you have my whistle-stop tour of Prague! I originally planned to go through our trip chronologically but there was just so much to say that the post would have been even longer. 
I really adored Prague and felt it was like a perfect fairytale city. The beautiful buildings, cobbled streets and feeling of history dripping from every part of it made it the perfect getaway and it was so lovely to experience it with Pete (sorry!). It was the perfect place to go for a first trip abroad too; there was so much to see and do but it wasn't so big as to be overwhelming either.
The food was lovely and the beer super cheap, too, so it would be good for those who were a bit constrained by their budgets like I was.
I really would recommend Prague to anyone looking for a city break filled with history, culture and beautiful scenery.
The only drawback? I've well and truly got itchy feet now and am already trying to decide where to go next!

Have you ever been to Prague? What were your favourite parts? 
Where would you recommend I go next?