Today the gender pay gap reporting deadline closed after 10,000 UK companies reported. The figures indicate a shocking 78% of firms pay men more than women on average, while 14% pay women more. When the gender pay gap figure is raised on my pages, time and time again I get the same comments from people who don’t believe in it. They argue it’s just because women take time out for kids and don’t want the responsibility. That more women want to do less paid work. As the Queer Eye guys say (my new latest obsession), let’s unpack that…
Equal pay versus gender pay gap
There is of course a difference between equal pay and the gender pay gap. Equal pay is women being paid the same as men for the same work. A company who doesn’t pay equally breaks the law.
A gender pay gap usually means your organisation has men in more senior positions and women in lower paid ones. Look at most organisations and you will see director level and above is mostly men. You’ll have seen it said many times that there are more men named John or David in CEO positions, than all women put together.
When your senior positions are largely filled with old white men, they are much more likely to promote and recruit those like them. They see themselves in and identify with those candidates. They are often, subconsciously biased towards men, it’s what they’ve always seen and known. So say, an older white man is going to identify more readily with another older white man than say a young black woman. Couple that with the fact that behaviour seen as confident and assertive by a man is seen as bossy and commandeering by a woman and you can begin to see some of the issues. Additionally, because those men applying for the role see so many people who look like them in those positions, they can more easily see themselves doing those roles and that affects their self-confidence and worth and enables them to apply for more senior roles at higher pay jumps. Men are also doing much better with salary negotiation too – not that they are necessarily better at negotiating but that their efforts are received more positively.
Another part of the issue is that it’s been largely men deciding which jobs get the higher levels of pay. Why should a carer should be paid less than a finance officer for example?! The capitalist patriarchal system overlooks the value of manual or caring work for those who can push around paper and people. Those people don’t work any harder. Roles typically done by women are often paid less as ‘women’s work’ is undervalued by society as a whole.
The World Economic Forum also recently revealed that women are significantly affected by the automation of jobs and development of artificial intelligence, warning that unless more women enter the fields of science, technology and engineering, the gender gap could widen.
Is this fair?
World Economic Forum researchers have said it would take 217 years for disparities in the pay and employment opportunities of men and women to come to end, much longer than the 170 years they previously calculated no more than a year ago. It hurts my soul that my daughter won’t see pay parity, and neither will hers. That’s so depressing.
Some people think because we already have equal pay that it’s already fair. They argue that a gender pay gap is fair if men are doing more senior positions and women aren’t.
But why are so many men in higher positions than women? We know it’s not because they are more intelligent – girls have largely consistently outperformed boys at every level of education for as long as I can remember. So we know for sure that women are just as intellectually capable as men of doing the most senior jobs. (And if you think they aren’t as capable you really need to go away and check your misogyny stat).
We also know that having children is a key point for women’s wages to massively drop in comparison to men. So there are people who argue that it’s only fair that men progress to more senior positions – they (mostly) aren’t getting any/much time off work or there aren’t as many working part-time. They are dedicating more time to their careers…
But last I checked, it took both a male and a female to create a child. Why is it that women are paying the price for it so much more (an average price tag of £300k over a lifetime)?! And don’t forget lower pay means lower pensions and higher retirement ages too. Say we need to take a few years out to have kids and then want to work part-time for even another decade, that’s still a smaller proportion of our 45-50 years working life working reduced hours than working full-time. All of the mothers I know become exceptionally skilled multitaskers, they can do more in say 3 days than they ever could in 5. Most the women I know still want their career, they just need more flexibility to make it work. Many employers could be doing more but are stuck in the dark ages fixated with presenteeism instead of trialling solutions that would benefit everyone.
Most the time we find they don’t actually get to drop any responsibilities, they are expected to do everything they used to, just for less pay.
And so many men would like to go part-time but their flexible working requests aren’t approved as much as women’s. Flexible working and staying at home for dads is still stigmatised. The patriarchal system doesn’t just limit women, it limits men too. I’m sure loads of dads would like more of a balance and to be as involved with their kids.
To anyone who has ever educated themselves on feminism, it’s unquestionable that it’s a result of a patriarchal capitalist system that hugely favours men, and when you see gender pay gaps of 70% in the finance industry it should be impossible to argue against that. 54,000 pregnant women are discriminated against ANNUALLY and that’s a huge part of this. We all know employers who don’t want to recruit women who are of ‘child bearing age’ in case she takes time out.
As a humans, we have a tacit understanding that one of our main reasons for being is to propagate. It’s out biological imperative. It’s always going to be something a lot of people want to do. Isn’t it time we figured out a new way to do this that is fair and where women aren’t penalised for this?
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