AS A woman there are few things more grating than being told ‘you can’t have it all’; being in the position of saying just that to other women is one of them. Yet when it comes to the efforts of some 1950s-born women to have their state pension age reversed back to 60, there are no two ways about it: they cannot demand equality on the one hand while seeking to perpetuate inequality on the other.

Thanks to changes first put forward by the Tories in the mid-1990s, women, like men, now have to wait until the age of 65 before they can start drawing their state pension. Within the next two years that will rise to 66 for everybody, with both the Labour and Coalition governments agreeing down the years that such changes are necessary to help deal with the burden of an ageing population.

The arguments in favour of the move are sound. When the first state pension was introduced over a century ago, the cost of providing it was relatively small, with just one in four people living long enough to receive it and those that did generally only surviving a further nine years once they’d started to draw it. Fast forward to 2018 and life expectancy is so high that women in particular can easily expect to live at least 20 years in retirement, with the cost of providing the state pension expected to balloon from £100 billion a year at the moment to £200bn in the 2030s. As the bill for state pensions is met out of current year taxation, the intergenerational impact of that will be immense. Anything that can reduce that burden while also removing a rare historical inequality that favoured women over men is to be welcomed.

Yet while the change will affect all working women in the long run, it is only those born in the 1950s that are really feeling its impact. Indeed, while phasing was deemed the fairest way to effect the increase to 65, it has meant that while a woman born in April 1950 could retire at 60, if she had been born three years later she would have had to wait until she was 63. Not only that, but with legislation passed in 2011 speeding up the rate at which equalisation was achieved while also raising the overall state pension age to 66, a woman born in December 1954 has seen her own retirement date shift first from December 2014 to September 2019 and then on to December 2020.

No wonder the affected women are irate, with campaign groups such as Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) and Backto60 accusing the Government of robbing them of their retirement dues. Yet while Backto60 last week won the right to challenge how the Government handled the increases in the courts, it seems unlikely that they will achieve their ultimate goal of having the pension-age increases reversed.

Nor should they, particularly when the arguments being put forward by the women are taken into account. While at first the 1950s women claimed their pension age should not be raised because they had not been given adequate time to prepare for the change, more recently they have argued that everything from career breaks to pay inequality make them entitled to earlier and longer payments than men.

Their points about historical inequalities are are certainly valid. Thanks to huge societal shifts in the past few decades we are getting to a position where women - and men - can just about have it all. Indeed, with men taking on an ever-greater share of household responsibilities, women have been freed up to pursue their career ambitions and that in turn has enabled men to enjoy a better work-life balance. That is to everyone’s benefit.

Yet, as gender pay gap statistics show, the near-equality that so many of us enjoy in the home is not being reflected in the workplace, with men continuing to dominate the most lucrative senior positions while women in general continue to fill lower-paid ones. Not only does that put women at a financial disadvantage when it comes to saving for their own retirements, it also means their careers suffer when there is a child or elderly relative to be cared for: regardless of how committed we are to achieving gender equality, household economics will almost always dictate that the lower salary is the one worth being partly sacrificed. That in turn reduces the amount that women can channel into a private or workplace pension, exacerbating the long-term gender pay gap and reinforcing gender stereotypes in the process.

But these are problems that affect women entering the workforce just as much as those preparing to leave it and, unless something drastic is done - and fast - they will inevitably go on to impact the working lives of the girls yet to begin their working lives too. Crucially, these are not problems that the state pension - a benefit designed to provide everyone with the same foundation income in retirement, regardless of their other means - can, or should, be used to solve.

Yes, the Government has a role to play in helping eradicate inequality, and it must be held to account for that. But reversing for some of us a policy that is supposed to make things fairer for all of us is not the way to do it.