Womens' groups up and down Britain have been celebrating after a new study into pay differentials showed that women are now performing only 12% worse in the workplace than men, which is an all-time record. Analysts are divided, however, on whether or not they can ever match their male colleagues.
Gallup analyst Dr Colin Thomas, who co-authored the report, is optimistic. He pointed out that when the first study was done 50 years ago, women were barely 60% as capable in the same jobs as men and that they only achieved 70% effectiveness in the mid-1980s.
'Remember, 88% is an average figure. Unlikely as it may sound, women's performance in some areas is almost as good as men's within the margin or error,' Thomas said. 'I take my hat off to the girls - which of course I do anyway as a matter of courtesy. They all deserve a pat on their pert little bottoms.'
However, some are more sceptical, believing that women may be at or near their natural limits. According to Professor Keith Barnes of the Institute of Policy Studies, a trend among a minority of women not to give up their little jobs as soon as they get married may have led to some temporarily rising to the middle of their professions.
'Statistics like these don't lie,' Barnes said. 'However, some current trends are against women achieving anything more substantial in the workplace - notably the way the relentless rise of Facebook is effectively forcing to waste more and more time every day telling their online friends about the gorgeous shoes they saw in Lilley & Skinner yesterday.'
However, Thomas believes that the sky is the limit. 'Some women are out-earning men already,' he said. 'Only in modelling and porn, admittedly, but it's a start. If things carry on getting better at this rate, there's no reason one day why there can't be a woman running the line at a football match or even a woman Prime Minister ... actually no, that's a stupid idea.'
Meanwhile, another study has given men heart. Although they average only 17% of women's efficiency at home-based tasks, the traditional and highly sexist view that they lack the 'emotional intelligence' to operate washing machines or change nappies has been proven false.
'Most men have shown a surprising ability to manipulate their partner's vanity and nurturing instinct by saying "You are just so much better than me at orgainising all that stuff, love",' noted study author Jessica Carr. 'Their ability to do this is almost human.'