'A sad state of affairs': Gender equality is 200 years away, #100Women told

Bethan Staton, News Reporter

When a live studio audience of 100 women came together in Sky Studios to debate gender parity, there was a lot to discuss.

Pay and parenting, sex scandals and sexism, women versus women and the behaviour of men were all on the agenda - as well as the question of whether feminism had gone far enough.

Audience members were shocked to learn that gender equality is still more than 200 years away, according to estimates by the World Economic Forum.

"That's a sad state of affairs," panellist and British Army Lieutenant Colonel Lucy Giles said.

In an hour-long debate hosted by Kay Burley on the eve of International Women's Day, Sky News revealed the results of a Sky Data poll that showed a majority of people in the UK thought feminism had gone far enough - and that 40% believed it had gone too far.

But a panel of high-flying women - including actress Michelle Collins, MP Rupa Huq, London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton and businesswoman Kate Hardcastle - described experiences of fighting a system that still makes life for women tough.

Equal pay was a pressing issue for many in the studio. According to Sky's survey, 70% of people think men are paid more than women for the same work.

Kate Hardcastle recalled being dismissed when she pointed out that her male colleagues were earning more.

"Employers themselves need to be far more responsible," she said, arguing that women were likely to undervalue their skills while men overestimate their abilities.

Audience members questioned the inclusiveness of the feminist movement, with one speaker asking that minority women in the UK, and those from elsewhere around the globe, should be a bigger part of the conversation.

Kellie Maloney said trans women were "getting there slowly" but were still "a long way off being accepted in the community properly."

The #MeToo movement was a hot topic as well - and many panellists said men needed a bigger push to change their behaviour.

"Men will do what they can get away with", MP Rupa Huq said - pointing out that while there is a system for addressing dodgy financial dealings, the same cannot be said for sexual misconduct.

Dany Cotton said the problem of accountability was the same in many areas.

"What's the sanction?" she asked. "For a lot of men nothing actually happens. They don't lose out in the job world, they don't lose out anywhere."

"There's no encouragement, there's no support, and they're seen as weak if they do change their behaviour."

Sky's survey backed up concerns raised in the #100Women debate. In our poll, 10% of men said they had changed their public behaviour to avoid being called sexist, but not their attitudes.

The vast majority of women in the audience said they considered themselves to be feminists.

But many also said that they worried about women being pitted against each other - and failing to stand up for other women in the fight for equality.

Model and campaigner Chelsea Jay said she felt that cruelty and judgement between women - especially on social media - was too normal and called for more solidarity between women facing similar struggles.

"Imagine if we all did stick together together, if we didn't put that hate out there," she said. "We would literally be the living embodiment of the Spice Girls."